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Full text of "Bengal fairy tales"




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THE LIBRARY OF THE 

UNIVERSITY OF 

NORTH CAROLINA 

AT CHAPEL HILL 




ENDOWED BY THE 

DIALECTIC AND PHILANTHROPIC 

SOCIETIES 






UNIVERSITY OF N.C, AT CHAPEL HILL 



00009093232 



This book must not 
be taken from the 
Library building. 



it 




Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2011 with funding from 

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 



http://www.archive.org/details/bengalfairytalesObrad 



BENGAL FAIRY TALES 



BY THE SAME AUTHOR 



CHOTA NAGPORE 

THE STORY OF AN INDIAN UPLAND 

THE ROMANCE OF AN EASTERN CAPITAL 

THROUGH PERSIA 

'SYLHET' THACKERAY 

TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 




THE MAN WHO WAS ENRICHED BY ACCIDENT 



BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

BY F. B. BRADLEY-BIRT 

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY 
ABANINDRANATH TAGORE 



',^^ 



LONDON: JOHN LANE, THE BODLEY HEAD 
NEW YORK: JOHN LANE COMPANY. MCMXX 




WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED, LONDON AND BKCCLES, ENGLAND 



CONTENTS 

PART I 

STORIES TOLD BY BHABAGHURAY, THE TRAVELLER 

CHAPTER PAGE 

I. The Four Riddles ...... i 

n. Padmalochan, the Weaver ..... 6 

III. Budhibanta, the Boy Weaver . . . . . 1 1 

IV. Khoodeh, the Youngest Born . . . .17 
V. Luckhinarain, the Idiot . . . . .23 

VI. The Four Swindlers ...... 28 

VII. Katmanush, or the Human Being who was made of 

Wood ........ 40 

VIII. The Wily Brahmin . . . . . -45 

IX. Hati Sing, or the Vanquisher of an Elephant . . 49 

X. The Country of Swindlers . . , . -53 

XI, The Man who was enriched by Accident . . -59 

XII. Strange Friends in Time of Need . . . .62 

XIII. Lakshmi's Gift ....... 64 

XIV. The Redeeming Power of the Ganges ... -70 



PART II 

I. Madhumala, the Wreath of Sweetness . . -77 

II. Pushpamala, the Wreath of Flowers . . .86 

III. Malanchamala, the Wreath in a Flower Garden . 99 



VI 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTER 

IV. Kanchanmala, the Golden Wreath . 
V. Shankha, the Garland of Shells 



PAGE 

Ii6 
126 



PART III 

I. Princess Kalabutti . . . . . .139 

11. The Seven Brothers who were turned into Champa 

Trees ........ 150 

III. Sheet and Basanta . . . . . . iS3 

IV. Kirunmala, or the Wreath of Light . . .162 
V. Blue Lotus and Red Lotus . . . . .168 

VI. Dalimkumar ....... 174 

VII. A Stick of Gold and a Stick of Silver . . -179 

VIII. Jackal, the Schoolmaster ..... 186 

IX. Humility rewarded and Pride punished . . .191 

X. A Brahmin and his Wife . . . . .196 

XI. A Man who was only a Finger and a Half in Stature 200 

XII. The Petrified Mansion ...... 205 

XIII. A True Friend . . . . , . .207 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



1. The Man who was enriched by Accident 

2. Padmalochan, the Weaver 

3. Khoodeh, the Youngest Born 
4 Kala Paree and Nidra Paree 

5. The Burra Rani and the Sanyasi 

6. The Man who was only a Finger and a Half 

IN Stature ...... 



Frontispiece 
To face page 



6 

18 

80 

140 

200 



A 



BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

PART I 

STORIES TOLD BY BHABAGHURAY, 
THE TRAVELLER 

I 

THE FOUR RIDDLES 

N Emperor of the olden days in India once sent a 
messenger to one of his tributary Rajas, Prithu by 
name, to ask him four questions. These were : — 

1. Can there be poison in nectar? 

2. Can there be nectar in poison ? 

3. Can there be a dog in human shape ? 

4. Is it possible for a donkey to rule a 

kingdom ? 
On the answering aright of these questions depended the 
tributary Raja's life, for the Emperor's order was that, in 
case of failure, the Raja should forfeit his head. The time 
granted to him for returning an answer was three months, 
and the first two months the Raja spent in fruitless 
endeavours to solve the riddles. The nearer the termination 
of the prescribed period approached the greater grew his 
anxiety and dread. At length he wrote the questions in big 
letters on a large sheet of paper, and tied it round the neck 
of a fast-going steed, with orders that he should be made 
to run throughout the whole Raj, and that if anybody on 
reading the paper could answer the questions he should be 
immediately brought to the court with promises of very rich 
rewards. 

B 



2 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

The plan the Raja had devised promised success, for 
within a short time there appeared before him a man named 
Golami who said that he knew the answers. But he would 
not give them save in the presence of the Emperor himself 
Failing to solve the riddle himself, the Raja was forced to 
send for him to the imperial court. Golami further demanded 
a very large sum of money and the choicest jewels of great 
value, in order to bring the matter to a happy issue, and, being 
furnished with all that he desired, he started on his journey, 
which he accomplished in about a fortnight. He then hired 
one of the grandest houses in the Emperor's capital, kept a 
mistress, and ingratiating himself with the smartest and most 
fashionable characters there, opened his doors wide to all 
comers. Pleasure succeeded pleasure, entertainments of all 
kinds were given on the grandest scale and alms and loans 
generously distributed, so that Golami soon became one of 
the most popular men in the city. 

Spending a week in this way, he one day called his friends 
to him, and said that he desired to marry, and that he 
depended upon their selection. They said that there was a 
bride, in every way worthy of him, who, however, would not 
in consequence of a vow listen to the proposal, except upon 
the receipt of twenty-five thousand rupees in advance. 
Golami at once loosened his purse-strings, and handed over 
the sum, not a pice of which, however, found its way into the 
girl's hands, the entire sum being divided among his false 
friends. To keep Golami still in their power, they found for 
him a girl of the vilest and most treacherous nature, and 
her he brought into his house as his wife, though he knew her 
to be a bad woman as soon as he cast eyes upon her. . 

On the third day after the marriage, Golami, who had been 
out, returned from his banker with a vast sum of money and 
some jewels and gems of the first water. These he had 
previously received from his employer, and had deposited in 
the bank. He showed them to his wife, and told her that 
they were the effects of a robbery perpetrated by him on a 



THE FOUR RIDDLES 3 

merchant travelling along the highway, and that a royal 
proclamation had gone forth offering a rich reward to anyone 
giving information against him. He again went out on 
pretence of some business, and his wife, taking advantage of 
his absence, went to the police, and informed them against her 
husband. Though they had heard nothing of the robbery, or 
of any royal proclamation, they believed her when they came 
to know that she was the wife of the offender, and at once 
sent men with her for his arrest. 

They found him at home waiting for the police, and they 
at once laid hold of him, and took him to the Emperor, 
who, instead of leaving the judgment of capital offences, of 
which highway robbery was one, in the hands of the judges 
appointed by him, took cognizance of them himself. And, 
after a mere formal trial, Golami was sentenced to death, 
and sent to prison to wait there till the moment of 
execution. 

The fact was noised abroad, and the prisoner's former 
mistress, hearing of it, hastened to him and comforted him. 
She engaged counsel to defend her lover with all the money 
she had, and Mouhis to offer prayers for him. Not content 
with these services, she volunteered to remain in prison with 
him, if thereby she could in any way cheer him up. 

Golami sent message after message to his friends, but they 
neither came to see him, nor sent a word of recognition. 
They had become his wife's lovers, and with her they merrily 
talked over his troubles. 

At length the day of execution dawned. It happened also 
to be the last day of the three months allowed for the solution 
of the questions sent to Raja Prithu on which Golami was led 
in chains to the place where he was to be executed. There 
was a large crowd of spectators, in the midst of whom were 
his false wife and friends. The poor mistress, whose heart 
was breaking at the sad prospect before him, was waiting in 
a corner, with swimming eyes raised to the face of him whom 
she loved more than life. The block of wood, on which his 



4 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

head was to be placed before the falling of the fatal axe, was 
ready and the Emperor arrived to give the final command. 

But that command was not to be given, for the man under 
sentence of death cried out that he had a word for the ears 
of the Emperor, to whom it was of paramount importance. 
Being told to speak his thoughts, he said that they must be 
whispered in the Emperor's ears, so that others might not 
hear them. The Emperor, fearing some foul play, would not 
at first allow the near approach of him whom he had sentenced 
to death, but he was at length prevailed upon by the prime 
minister to do so. Golami, led close up to him, with his 
hands pinioned and his legs bound, brought his face near to 
the Emperor's ears and whispered, " I am no breaker of the 
law. I am as innocent as your Majesty. I was commis- 
sioned to answer the four questions you sent for solution 
to Raja Prithu. Will you permit me to give you the answers 
privately in your ear, or publicly so that your subjects may 
know them ? " 

The Emperor thinking that, if there was truth in what 
the man said, he had wronged him grievously, and that 
therefore it would be just to exonerate and even to reward 
him in public, bade Golami give the answers aloud. There- 
upon the latter cried out, " Reverend Sire, here are the 
solutions of your questions. The answers I have found in 
my experiences here. As to the first question, ' Can there be 
poison in nectar?' Look at that ugly creature, superficially 
so attractive, waiting there to see me die. She is my wife, 
and instead of the nectar which I expected to find in her, I 
have found poison. To try her I gave out that I had com- 
mitted a robbery, and thus made myself liable to be punished 
with death, and no sooner had she heard me than she sped 
to the police to denounce me. 

"With regard to the second question, I have found nectar 
in a vessel of poison. That woman there, of evil repute, 
whose heart is supposed to contain poison, has been to me 
like life-giving nectar. She has done for me a service 



THE FOUR RIDDLES 5 

as great even as that which a dutiful wife could have 
done. 

"As to the third question, my false friends there are dogs 
in human form. They ate at my expense, even the morsels 
that I rejected were seized by them voraciously, and just as 
a dog licks the feet of its master, but, when rabid, bites him 
to death, so have these men flattered me, and when maddened 
by greed of money, and a desire to enjoy the uninterrupted 
companionship of the vile woman whom I made my wife, 
have rushed at me to bite me to death. 

" And as to whether a donkey can possibly rule a king- 
dom, I pray your Majesty to look at yourself. You are an 
Emperor, but have you not proved yourself a donkey, in 
sentencing me to death before thorough investigation ? " 

The Emperor looked utterly abashed, and remained 
speechless. At length he invited Golami into the palace, 
entertained him for several days, and then sent him away with 
rich presents. But these were nothing in comparison with 
what Prithu gave him after his return. He bestowed upon 
him the half of his kingdom, and the hand of his daughter, 
though the bridegroom was a Mahomedan, and she a Hindu. 
Caste restrictions were not so strong then as in later times, 
and so it was not difficult for the Raja to reward his deliverer 
in this signal manner. 

Our story ends here, for Bhabaghuray has not told us 
what afterwards befell the several actors in this drama. 



II 

PADMALOCHAN, THE WEAVER 

THERE is a legend in Bengal, that weavers, as a 
class, are very stupid people, there being this 
peculiar element in their composition, that while 
very expert in matters of weaving and selling the 
products of their labour, they betray an extraordinary lack 
of common sense in every other respect. 

Padmalochan was a weaver, and from what we have said, 
it is needless to add that he was a first-class dolt. One 
day, being at leisure, he was seated on his haunches at his 
door and regaling himself with the fumes of his hooka, when 
he beheld the well-known palmist of his village passing by. 
After the usual form of salutation, the weaver asked the 
palmist to tell him his fortune, especially calculating the 
time of his death. As, however, the reader of fortune made 
his living by his trade, and knew his customer to be too 
stingy to pay even a pice for his labour, he in ill-humour 
took up the weaver's right palm, and dropped it again in a 
second, saying that he would die the very moment a line of 
thread should pass out from behind his body. The parties 
then separated, the palmist to practise his art among those 
more liberal, and the weaver to work at his loom. 

Several days passed after this prophecy concerning the 
weaver's time of exit from the world, when, as chance would 
have it, the thread round his shuttle got so entangled in his 
loin cloth, that it was difficult to extricate it. The more he 
tried to draw it out, the more did it lengthen itself, till at 
last, being sure that this was the fulfilment of the prophecy 




PADMALOCHAN THE WEAVER 



PADMALOCHAN, THE WEAVER 7 

concerning his death, he rolled on the ground, lamenting in 
the bitterest terms his untimely departure from the world, 
and the subsequent wretchedness of his dear wife, whom he 
must leave a helpless widow. His lamentations grew so loud 
that they drew his better half to the scene. She, who had 
been apprised of the palmist's calculation, was beyond herself 
with grief, and fell by her husband's side, railing against the 
gods for this unjust and cruel visitation that they were 
inflicting upon them. Her shrieks quickly brought the 
neighbours to her side. They also were weavers, and not 
a whit more sensible than the afflicted couple, and when they 
saw Padmalochan in that unhappy state, they could not 
forbear shedding tears of sympathy. The man himself was 
naturally of an imaginative turn of mind, and in fancy he 
went through all the agonies of death, omitting not even 
the last gasp. Then when he seemed motionless, his wife 
and friends supposed that the soul had taken flight, and 
they at once engaged themselves in making preparations for 
the obsequies. Bundles of wood with a very sparse quantity 
of ghee to be rubbed on the supposed corpse before placing 
it on the funeral pile, and incense to be thrown into the 
fire to make a sweet odour, were prepared, and the sym- 
pathetic neighbours set out for the place of cremation in a 
deserted locality, many miles distant from their village. They 
carried on their shoulders their friend's body, wrapped in a 
mat and tied to a bamboo, and leaving the city behind them 
they reached the middle of a field, when it was near midnight. 
There were several footpaths marked in the field, and the 
benighted men did not know which to take. They were at 
their wits' ends, and commenced arguing on the point. The 
disagreement took the form of a quarrel, until at last Padma, 
so long silent in fancied death, could no longer hold his 
tongue. He cried out, " Friends, I know well the way to 
the burning ghat ; and I would gladly tell you in which 
direction to go, if my tongue were not tied by Yama." 

Hearing him speak, his friends were greatly frightened, 



8 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

for they thought it was a Dano, an evil spirit that, taking 
possession of a corpse, speaks and acts like the man whose 
dead body it has entered. Hastily throwing the body down, 
they ran away as fast as they could, and did not look behind 
until they reached the inhabited quarters of the city. 

In the meantime, Padma disengaged himself from his 
bonds, and in spite of his bruised body managed to climb 
up a peepitl tree near by, in order to secure himself from 
jackals, and other dangerous wild beasts. He imagined that 
he really was a Dano, but still he could not but obey his 
human instincts. After some time sleep was about to seal 
his eye-lids and he had begun to doze when, as chance would 
have it, there came to the foot of the tree a band of house- 
breakers, abroad on a plundering excursion. One of Padma's 
legs was hanging down, and it touched the head of one of 
the thieves, who instantly gave it so strong a pull that it 
brought him down to the ground. The house-breakers, 
superstitious like other illiterate men, thought it must be 
some superhuman being who had waylaid them, and in great 
dread they asked him who he was. It was necessary to give 
them some answer, and Padma thought it best to give it in 
a nasal tone, for he knew that no evil spirit can talk except 
through his nose. In a nasal tone, therefore, he told them his 
whole history, particularly, of course, of his having died, and 
of the Dands advent into his body. The men to whom he 
talked were not such block-heads as to believe him, and 
they realized that he was a fellow stupid enough to be made 
their cat's-paw in any daring enterprise. So they invited him 
to follow them, telling him at the same time, who and what 
they were. He gladly accepted the invitation and accompanied 
them. 

The field was soon crossed, and a town showing all the 
signs of opulence was reached. On the side of a river near 
it, there was a professional drummer's cottage, through the 
walls of which the house-breakers made a hole big enough for 
a man to pass. It is according to the code in force among 



PADMALOCHAN, THE WEAVER 9 

house-breakers that one of the perpetrators of the crime 
should make the first entrance, and if the coast is clear, 
inform his fellows of it, either by some signs from inside, or 
by coming out, at the same time carrying away anything 
within his reach. Acting according to their code, but 
unwilling to risk themselves, the house-breakers in question 
induced Padma to make the first entrance, telling him at 
the same time to bring away with him the most valuable 
things he could lay hands on, the most valuable thing 
probably being the heaviest thing within reach. He entered 
the room into which the hole led, and finding nobody there, 
commenced seeking something heavy, with which he might 
return to his companions. He found a curry-stone, one of 
the heaviest things in a Bengali's house, and so he took this 
and went out with it as if it were precious booty. The 
thieves laughed at his stupidity, and sent him a second time 
through the hole, telling him that the most valuable things 
in a cottage like the one before them were not only heavy, 
but sonorous also, meaning thereby brass or bell-metal 
utensils. He waited for no further instructions, and hope- 
ful of success went back into the room, where in a corner 
he found something large and heavy, and to see if it gave 
any sound, he commenced beating it with his palm. It was 
a drum and it gave forth its Chatak, chatak, taktaksin sound 
so loud through the whole house, that the inmates were 
awakened. Startled, they lit their lamps, and entered the 
room where they beheld the novice in theft playing on the 
drum in great glee. Asked who he was, and why he was 
there in that position, he made a clean breast of everything. 
Some strong male members of the family opened the outer 
door, in order to apprehend the robbers, but none of them 
were to be found, for they had all decamped at the first sign 
of danger. The poor weaver looked blank, and the men 
were disposed to let him off. They offered to take him 
home, but he did not consent, for fear that, as he was a 
Daiio, his presence would bring pollution to his house, and 



lo BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

misfortune on her who remained there, the dear wife to 
whom he was still devoted. He therefore volunteered to go 
about with them as a drummer, so that by entertaining the 
gods and goddesses with his performances, he might be 
rewarded with a life more blessed and happier than that of 
a Dano. The men acceded to his request, but what happened 
to him in the future Bhabaghuray has not yet told us, and 
until he does we must remain in ignorance. 



Ill 

BUDHIBANTA, THE BOY WEAVER 

IN a certain village in rural Bengal there lived a young 
weaver, Budhibanta by name. He had a mother to 
whom he was very obedient. The power of judging 
for himself was not to be found in him, and he did 
everything his mother told him to do. He was married, 
but his wife was too young to leave her father's house, and 
live in her husband's. It was necessary, however, that 
husband and wife should sometimes meet, and so one day our 
hero's mother wished him to visit his better half. But how 
the weak and foolish boy would behave in society was a 
source of anxiety to his mother. She at length thought that 
it would be best to send her son with a friend, as his 
protector and guide, after giving him some good advice, and 
accordingly, on the most auspicious day named by the village 
astrologer, Budhi left home with his friend and the parting 
instructions of his mother, which were to bow deeply to any 
grave-looking lady of his father-in-law's house, for there were 
several ladies there who were worthy of his respect ; to put 
as much food into his mouth as could be taken up with only 
five fingers, that is, to eat as little food as possible, for to 
appear greedy in one's father-in-law's house was an in- 
excusable indecency ; and to take the shortest and the most 
direct path when returning home alone, for his friend might 
not find it convenient to wait during the whole time he might 
be detained by his mother-in-law. 

With these words of advice stored in his mind, and his 
friend Juggo accompanying him, he reached his destination, 



12 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

and was at once taken into an inner apartment, where he 
beheld, though at a distance, his veiled wife, who appeared 
anxious to avoid him, according to the immemorial custom 
of her country that no girl wife should show her face to her 
lord before marriage. Running towards her, he bowed low 
to her, touching her feet with his forehead. This made every 
one in the house titter, but unconscious of his stupidity, he 
went in, squaring his chest and bearing himself proudly. 

Sometime afterwards, a dish containing fruits and sweets 
was laid before him, and he could without difficulty put each 
of these into his mouth, agreeably to his mother's advice. 
But when the noon-day meal was served, being naturally 
voracious, he invoked the most fearful curses on his mother's 
head, on account of the restraint her commands enjoined 
upon him. 

The day passed without anything noteworthy happening, 
and at night, when the last meal was served, he was in the 
same predicament as at dinner, or even in a greater, for the 
dish before him was then kJiiclmri, a mixture of boiled rice 
and pulse, seasoned with gJiee and spices. The greater 
portion of the food was liquid, and poor Budhi was at a loss 
to discover how to quiet the cravings of hunger. But his 
mother's command was his law, and with great regret he was 
forced to leave most of the dish uneaten. 

Finally the whole house retired for the night. Budhi, of 
course, was in the same room with his wife, and his friend 
was in the room in the outer apartments. The wife, too 
young to enter into a long conversation with him, soon fell 
asleep ; but the burning of his empty stomach kept him 
awake, and, on tiptoe, he crept out into the room occupied 
only by his friend. He roused him, and with tears informed 
him of his distress. Together he and his friend began 
searching about the room, with the result that they found a 
trap-door leading into a room below. Budhi bent his head 
to try and see if there was any food there, and to his delight 
he saw a harhi full of molasses. He got down through the 



BUDHIBANTA, THE BOY WEAVER 13 

trap-door, by means of a rope tied round his waist, asking 
his friend to draw him up when he felt a jerk. Greedily he 
disposed of the contents of the harhi and many handfuls of 
rice which he found close by. Then taking the harhi still 
more than half full of molasses on his head and a bundle of 
rice in his right hand, with the intention of hiding them 
somewhere and appeasing his hunger on future occasions, he 
gave the signal to his friend. The latter felt a jerk on the 
rope and began pulling it up, but the weight of Budhi and of 
the things he was carrying was too much for it, and it 
snapped, throwing the greedy wretch to the floor, his whole 
body smeared with molasses mixed with rice. He greatly 
feared that the house might awake, owing to the noise his 
fall had made, so in order to scare them away, his brain, dull 
in useful matters, but prolific in mischievous plans, quickly 
evolved a scheme, which was to impersonate a ghost by 
uttering aloud some indistinct nasal sounds. The plan was 
carried out, and the inmates of the house, believing that an 
evil spirit was the sole actor in the scene, could not call up 
courage enough to enter the storeroom, and one of them ran 
to the Roj'hah, the exorcist, and called him in. The Rojhah 
muttered some charms and entered the room, when Budhi, 
to make the scene more terrible, rushed towards him with 
gaping mouth. This was too much for the exorcist, and he 
fainted. The whole house was in dismay : women tore their 
hair in anguish and the men were paralysed. At length 
Budhi's wife, aroused from her heavy sleep, left her room, and 
joined them with the report that her husband was not in their 
room. This increased the uneasiness of her people, for they 
thought that he had been spirited away ; and not only the 
women, but the men even cried aloud at the mishap. 

The friend, Juggo, was awake all the while, but he 
remained silent. Up till then, he had not thought it advisable 
to betray the secrets of his friend, but when he saw that the 
scene was painful beyond endurance, he revealed the facts of 
the case, and the whole house rang with the noise of laughter. 



14 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

Nothing like this had happened in their experience before, and 
they were all much amused. The excitement being over, they 
crowded into the pantry, and found our hero sitting on his 
haunches, and grinning at the alarm he had caused. They 
washed him clean, made him change his clothes, and cracked 
jokes at him, but he still remained puffed up with pride at the 
consternation he had caused. 

Next morning the matter was forgotten ; and the 
attentions the son-in-law received were as usual. His 
relations by marriage pressed him to remain with them a few 
days more, but Juggo, disgusted with the night's occurrence, 
took leave of his friend, and returning home, told Budhi's 
mother of his folly. His mother was greatly distressed on 
her son's account, and anxiety for his safe return made her 
very miserable. She trembled with fear, lest he, having no 
protector but himself, should run into danger, and finally she 
made up her mind to go to his father-in-law's house, and 
bring her darling home, even though, according to the custom 
of her country, it was not the correct thing to do. She had 
the most favourable day pointed out to her on the almanac by 
a Brahmin, and started on her journey. But that journey she 
was not destined to complete, for having passed over about 
half the distance she found her son lying dead a little way off 
from the beaten path. It can be easily conceived what a 
shock she received at the sight. Wild with grief, she beat 
her head against the ground, tore her hair, uttered cries of 
lamentation that rent the air, and sang a dirge of the thousand 
and one good traits of her son's character. 

She was, however, gifted with a strong mind, and so she 
soon collected herself and began to think of the removal of 
the body for cremation. She returned home to bring her 
neighbours to the spot, in order that they might help her to 
perform the last duties to her son, and in a short time, nothing 
remained of poor Budhibanta on earth save a heap of ashes. 

No one at the time knew the cause of the boy's death. 
But the narrator of the story by means of later inquiries 



BUDHIBANTA, THE BOY WEAVER 15 

ascertained the circumstances under which the tragic event 
had happened, and from him we have heard that the poor 
weaver was returning home that same morning, when on 
reaching a palmyra-tree, where two roads branched off in 
different directions, he feared that by taking the longer one 
by accident he would be acting contrary to his mother's advice 
to take the shortest path, and he therefore climbed up to the 
top of the tree to get a view of the two roads. Having done 
so he laid hold of one of the branches, and swung himself 
down so as to fall on his feet on the other side of it, where- 
upon one of the Fatal Sisters attempted to cut the thread of 
his life as he fell. His feet touched the head of a man under- 
neath him mounted on an elephant. The man laid hold of 
our hero's feet, and the elephant moved quickly away. It was 
a terrible sight, Budhi hanging from the top of the palmyra- 
tree, with the new-comer dragging him down, but the weaver, 
too stupid to understand the danger of the position, began 
interrogating his companion in distress who he was, whence 
he had come, and to whom the elephant belonged. The man, 
aware of their dangerous position, hastily exclaimed, "I have 
never seen such a fool as you. Both of us are on the point of 
death, and instead of calling on the gods, you indulge your- 
self in frivolous talk. Don't disturb me, I am calling on Ma 
Kali to save me." 

But the foolish Budhi only laughed. " Ha, ha, that's no 
use," he said. " Your life is in my hands. Refuse to answer, 
and I will let go my hold. You know what that means." 

The other man was naturally furious. " What a pest you 
are ! " he exclaimed. " There is no escape from you, however. 
So listen. I am a blind man, and have hitherto lived on my 
earnings as a singer. Last evening I entertained the king of 
this place with my songs, and he feasted me during the night, 
and dismissed me this morning with the elephant you have 
seen. Now you are satisfied, I hope. Trouble me no 
more." 

" Not yet, my friend," said Budhi. " I must hear the song 



i6 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

that brought you so valuable a reward. You had better begin 
singing at once." 

But the man protested. " I entreat you to spare me," he 
said. " Don't draw me away from my meditations." 

" You can't escape me so easily," replied Budhi. " Remain 
silent a minute longer, and I will let go my hold. See, I am 
just on the point of doing so." 

" Hear the song, then," exclaimed the unfortunate man, 
" and then go to the infernal regions." 

Saying this, the man began to sing. After he had sung 
for about a minute, the foolish Budhi took his hands off the 
branch to clap them in approval, whereupon down fell both of 
them with a tremendous thud, and their souls were carried to 
the feet of Yama. Some of the blind man's friends in the 
palace chanced to be passing that way a little after the occur- 
rence, and they removed his body to dispose of it with fitting 
funeral rites ; but the body of the weaver, who was a perfect 
stranger to them, they left lying where they found it. A fool 
has no honour even in his death. 



IV 

KHOODEH, THE YOUNGEST BORN 

ONCE upon a time, there was a family of seven 
brothers, six of whom were married, while Khoodeh, 
the youngest, remained single. They did not form 
a joint family, the brothers living independently of 
one another. Khoodeh had been his father's favourite and to 
him he had left the greater part of his possessions in coins 
and cowries. Khoodeh was on this account hated by his 
brothers. Their means of livelihood were precarious, while 
Khoodeh lived in comfort. One day, filled with spite and 
jealousy, they resolved to make away with him, and they 
cunningly devised a scheme to carry out their intentions. 
They asked Khoodeh if he would marry, and though he had 
seen enough to suspect them of treachery, he replied thus to 
them, " My elder brothers ! I regard you as worthy of as 
much veneration as my father. Look out for a wife for me." 

A few days passed, and Khoodeh's brothers one morning 
falsely told him that a girl had been found for him. They 
further said that very night had been fixed for the wedding 
and that they must all proceed to her father's house in the 
evening. Khoodeh pretended to be filled with joy and grati- 
tude and made the necessary preparations for the supposed 
happy occasion. He knew that his brothers were making 
ready a pitfall for him, but he did not care, for he was sure 
of outwitting them. The time for departure came, and the 
brothers proceeded towards the fictitious house of the fictitious 
bride. A river had to be crossed, and as they drew near it, 
Khoodeh managed to fall behind his brothers and escape 

c 



i8 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

their notice for a moment. He hurriedly ran towards a cow- 
herd, whom he had seen driving home the cows in his charge, 
and asked him if he would care to marry. The swain grinned 
wide at the question, and answered in the affirmative ; and our 
hero quickly took off" his own wedding clothes, and exchanged 
them for those of the cow-herd, telling him to approach the 
wedding party, imitate his benefactor's voice, and under 
cover of the darkness of the evening, impersonate him. The 
deluded creature did as directed. The brothers took him into 
a boat with the ostensible object of crossing the river, but in 
reality to drown him. When the boat reached the middle of 
the river, they callously cast him into it, under the conviction 
that it was Khoodeh himself. 

Khoodeh in the meantime had driven the cows into the 
yard of his house, and when his brothers returned, they saw 
him cooking his evening meal. Their surprise on seeing 
alive and well the man whom they believed they had thrown 
into the river and drowned, was as great as can be imagined. 
But great as their surprise was, they did not lose their 
impudence, and exclaimed, " Alas ! brother Khoodeh, the 
boat received a terrible shock, and you, the gem of our eyes, 
fell out. We tried much to save you, but our attempts were 
vain. Broken-hearted we have returned home. Come, let us 
hold you close to our hearts. By the bye, where have you got 
the cows from?" 

" I thank heaven for sparing me, and thus saving you 
from the pangs of bereavement," replied Khoodeh. "Just 
as I was being carried by the waves underneath the surface of 
the river, I found one of these cows swimming close by, and 
got on its back. Reaching dry ground, I met a being full of 
effulgence, who must be a god, beckoning me from a short 
distance away, and when I drew near he said, 'Say '^ hai" 
seven times, and each time a cow will come up from the water 
and place itself at your disposal.' I obeyed him and thus 
got the eight cows which you see." 

Khoodeh's brothers went away very much dejected at their 




KHOODEH THE YOUNGEST BORN 



KHOODEH, THE YOUNGEST BORN 19 

failure. The means they had adopted for his destruction had 
made him rich in the possession of eight milch cows. What 
more could they do? They racked their brains to find a 
solution of the question, and ultimately resolved to burn him 
alive by setting fire to his house the next night. The object 
of their evil intentions, however, by some means or other, 
guessed what was brewing, and spent the night chosen by 
the incendiaries for the crime, away from home. His house, 
however, was reduced to heaps of charcoal and ashes during 
his absence. But he was not the man to submit to mis- 
fortune without attempting to turn it to the best advantage. 
Returning home, he collected the charcoal, and, putting it 
into two large gunny-bags, which he placed on the back of 
one of his cows, one bag on each side, he started for the 
market for the ostensible purpose of selling their contents. 

He knew well that the sale would fetch very little, so 
he did not really go to the market at all, but roamed about 
on the look out for further adventure. The day, however, 
passed unprofitably, and in the evening he retired to a Chati. 
There he found a man with a cow loaded in the same way as 
his. In course of conversation, he asked his companion what 
his bags contained, and was told that they were filled with 
rupees. Being asked what the contents of his bags were, 
Khoodeh said that they were gold mohurs. Now this was 
a most successful cast of his dice, for when he was asleep 
the other man, who could hardly close his eyes during the 
night on account of the itching in his fingers to make the 
gold mohurs his own, got up long before the dawn, and drove 
away Khoodeh's cow with the bags of charcoal on it, leaving 
his own behind. 

Khoodeh was prepared for the success of his ruse, so 
getting up at dawn, he drove the cow with the money home, 
reaching it before his brothers were awake. Their wives, 
however, had left their rooms, and were engaged in their 
morning duties. Unburdening the cow, and pouring down 
the money on the floor of his sleeping room as noiselessly as 



20 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

possible, he got from one of his sisters-in-law a corn measure 
to see how many rupees he had. But he kept the purpose 
secret in order to have a greater surprise ready for his 
relations. Measure after measure he deposited the coins in 
his chest, leaving at length a single rupee sticking to the 
bottom of the measure so that at sight of it his brothers 
and their wives might be thrown into a sea of curiosity, on 
knowing that he had had so much money that a measure was 
required to ascertain its amount. What he had anticipated 
came to pass, and his brothers, with jealousy and confusion 
on their faces, came to him and asked him how he had 
become the master of so much money that it could not be 
conveniently counted, but estimated only by the measure 
used for the purpose of measuring corn. He enjoyed their 
chagrin and confusion, replying, "You see, brothers, I am the 
favourite of the gods, and my good fortune turns misfortune 
into blessings. My house caught fire, and with the two bags 
of charcoal I have earned as many bags of rupees." 

" Dear Khoodeh," the brothers hastened to answer, " do 
tell us how this happened. If feasible, we shall follow your 
plan and make ourselves rich for life." 

" I have obtained the money in the easiest way," he 
replied. " A dozen miles off, there is a town where charcoal 
is so valued that the people there pay for a bag of it an 
equally capacious bag of rupees. I went there and they 
eagerly closed the bargain with me. I advise you to burn 
your houses and go to the town to-morrow morning, and 
while passing along its streets you must, as I did, bawl out, 
' A bag of charcoal goes for an equally large bag of rupees.' " 

Here Khoodeh gave an imaginary description of the 
fictitious town. And his brothers, as silly as they were 
covetous, set fire to their houses that very night. Next 
morning, six heaps of charcoal were put into twelve bags, 
and the six brothers with as many cows, borrowed from their 
neighbours, and loaded up with two bags each, proceeded 
in the direction pointed out by Khoodeh. At length they 



KHOODEH, THE YOUNGEST BORN 21 

entered a town, and believing it to be the same as that which 
their brother had spoken of, they commenced crying at the 
top of their voices : " Here are twelve bags of the best char- 
coal, to be sold for as many bags of equal size filled with 
rupees." This was enough to overwhelm them Avith the 
ridicule of the people whose houses they passed, and the 
latter, forming a crowd around them, began to shower abuse 
upon them and cast handfuls of dust at them. When they 
vociferously demanded to know what all this meant, they 
were well thrashed with shoes, and thrust out of the town. 

Thus ended their enterprise, and crestfallen they returned 
home. But what was home to them who were now houseless? 
On meeting their wives, they beat their heads and breasts 
with their hands, and told them their doleful story. Loud 
lamentations were uttered by the six families, bereft of shelter 
over their heads and of all their other possessions that they 
had by their own hands turned into ashes. To make the 
best of so unfortunate a position, they built temporary sheds 
thatched with palmyra leaves, and engaged themselves as 
day labourers to the solvent farmers of their village. Their 
attitude towards Khoodeh was changed. Though deep 
hatred rankled in their hearts, they could not any longer 
dream of molesting him, for they knew that he was far above 
them in wealth and wisdom. It was to their interest, under 
the circumstances, to gain his favour, and, sycophants that 
they were, they constantly approached him to curry favour. 
He was liberal minded, and not only did he forget the ill 
usage he had received from them, but opened his purse- 
strings for their relief. In short, after heaping coals of fire 
on their heads, he brought them, if not to love him — for love 
was foreign to their nature — at least to look up to him with 
respect and awe. 

Khoodeh, rich beyond his expectations, married a good 
wife, and entered into speculations which soon made him the 
wealthiest man in his country. Secure in his high position, 
he invited his brothers to come and live with him. They 



22 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

eagerly availed themselves of the offer, and lived dependent 
on him whom they had once planned to destroy. He, 
however, did not in any way give them occasion to feel their 
unfortunate position. He was full of kindness to them, and 
took them as partners in his speculations without their paying 
a single pice in the shape of capital ; for he well knew how 
poor they were. In time, however, they too became rich, 
and Khoodeh's and his brothers' families became the most 
honoured people in the country, living happily together in 
the full enjoyment of unclouded good fortune. He who is 
really strong and great does not find it difficult to forgive the 
small and evil minded. 



V 
LUCKHINARAIN, THE IDIOT 

THERE once lived a Brahmin, respected as both 
learned and well-to-do. He was blessed with a 
wife and a young son, named Luckhinarain. 
Unfortunately, however, the latter in time grew 
into a young man so thick-headed that the like of him had 
never been seen before. But in spite of this his mother had 
a very high opinion of his intelligence, and she often quar- 
relled with her husband, who, knowing his son only too well, 
never gave him credit for even the least spark of common 
sense. 

The Brahmin one day desired to give a feast to his 
neighbours, and in the morning he set out to invite them, 
instructing his wife meanwhile to prepare the food. Believing 
her son to be a clever bargainer, though he had never pur- 
chased anything in his life, she gave him a rupee and told 
him to fetch some live fish worth eight annas and some 
tari-tarkari (green vegetables) at the same price. He went 
to the Bazar, and bought some twenty fish with half a rupee ; 
and then the question how to send them home puzzled his 
brain. He would not hire a coolie, for that would entail on 
his mother an additional expense. He rejected the idea of 
carrying them home himself, for that would not look well for 
one of his position. What was to be done with them? His 
prolific brain soon solved the difficulty. There was a canal 
flowing between the market and his house, and whispering to 
the fishes where the latter was, he threw them into the canal 
with orders that they should stop at the ghat close to his house 



24 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

and remain there till he came to take them up. The reader 
need not be told how far he was obeyed. Successful in his 
first purchase, he was about to make the second when it struck 
him that he did not know what tari-tarkari meant, and that 
he should have asked his mother what it was. But he was 
soon relieved of this trouble when a potter came to the Bazar 
to sell a basketful of kalkays.^ He danced with delight at 
the thought that the tari-tarkari he sought was at hand, and 
bought as many of the kalkays as could be had for eight 
annas. With them he went homewards, and reaching the 
ghat looked for the fishes, and not finding them, rent the air 
with abuse. He then entered the house and made a display 
of his purchases. When asked about the fish, he related what 
had happened. His parents were dumbfounded. At length 
the father's temper rose, and he cursed his son, which roused 
his wife's wrath. The feast had to be put off, for it was now 
midday, and no fish, essential to a Bengali meal, was available. 
What could the Brahmin do, but go back to the invited 
guests, and, relating the unpleasant circumstances, ask them 
to excuse him for the mishap. He arranged with them, how- 
ever, another day for their entertainment. 

On the evening that immediately preceded the day fixed, 
the Brahmin visited his prospective guests, and again invited 
them to dine at his house. Next day he was too tired to 
go to the milkman's to order dahi (curd) without which no 
dinner is complete. He wanted to send his servant for the 
purpose, but the man had been commissioned by his wife on 
some other errand, so either the Brahmin had to go himself, 
or send his son. Remembering what had happened pre- 
viously he was loath to depute the fool, so giving up all 
thoughts of rest, he was placing his chadar on his shoulders 
in order to set out, when his wife came in, and, in great 
sympathy for his weariness, recommended that Luckhinarain 
be entrusted with the mission. This her husband strongly 
opposed, reminding her how her dear son had spoiled every- 

' The bowl for holding the tobacco in a hooka. 



LUCKHINARAIN, THE IDIOT 25 

thing on the former occasion. But the mother, unreasonably 
prepossessed in the young man's favour, would not listen to 
contradiction, and at last persuaded the Brahmin to accept 
her proposal. The young hopeful, being told what was 
wanted of him, bragged a good deal of his own efficiency, and 
with the eight-anna bit his mother gave him as earnest money 
for the dahi, he started off for the milkman's house. But fate 
had destined that he should not get there. On the way he 
met the elephant belonging to the rajah of the place, which 
was being led to the river for its bath. And as he had never 
mounted an elephant, though he had always pictured it as his 
ideal of happiness, he could not resist the temptation of 
obtaining a ride by paying the mahout the money he had with 
him. While seated on the back of the animal, he assumed 
a ludicrous gravity of countenance, which made him the 
laughing-stock of the crowd that soon assembled around him, 
and some of the urchins who knew him bawled out, "There 
goes Luckhinarain, the Brahmin, on the rajah's elephant," 
and threw handfuls of dust at him. 

Having enjoyed himself to his heart's content, he returned 
home, quite unconcerned at his neglect of duty. With a bold 
face he told his mother that the earnest money had been paid 
to the milkman, and that the requisite quantity of dahi would 
be brought the next morning at nine o'clock. The poor 
woman believed him, though his father had great doubts as 
to the truth of his assertion. The morning came, and it 
was ascertained by the sun's position that it was nine o'clock, 
but no supply of dahi had come. In great anxiety Luckhi's 
mother asked him what the delay meant, and was peremptorily 
told to wait. Two hours passed, to the great uneasiness of 
his parents, and yet the milkman did not appear. The old 
Brahmin was on the tenter-hooks of suspense, and his wife 
in no better condition, when Luckhi, with sombre looks, went 
unknown to them into the pantry, took out some tamarind, 
entered the goshala, and made the cows eat the tamarind. In 
a quarter of an hour he visited the cows again with a karay. 



26 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

an earthen pot used to contain milk, and began to squeeze 
their teats, in the hope that the tamarind had congealed the 
milk in them into curd. The reader can well imagine what 
success he had. His mother coming into the cowshed and 
seeing how he was engaged, asked him to explain himself. 
Without deigning to reply he said, "What wonder ! the gods, 
I see, are against me. The course of nature seems to be 
altered. A thousand times have I witnessed that a little 
tamarind has caused a large quantity of milk to set, but now 
I find that a seer of this sour substance has failed to answer 
my purpose." 

"Wretched idiot, what are you saying?" his mother 
exclaimed. " Explain yourself. It is almost time for the 
guests to come. Go, run to the milkman for the curd." 

" Don't call me wretched. You, your father, your mother, 
and your cows are wretched. I never went to the milkman 
with your orders. Why should I do so, when I knew it was 
superfluous? Many a time you have curdled milk with 
tamarind, and I thought that I would do the same in the 
present case. You can't blame me." 

This was said in so loud a voice, that Luckhi's father was 
drawn to the spot, and hearing the last few words of his son's 
speech, he was quite beside himself with rage. Both parents, 
after pouring execrations on their son's head, asked him what 
he had done with the pice given him, to which he petulantly 
replied, "What have I done with the money? With it I 
gained such honours as neither you nor your ancestors to the 
fourteenth generation have achieved. I rode on the rajah's 
elephant, to the admiration and awe of the whole neighbour- 
hood. And you should rejoice at the good fortune of your 
son." 

The father's indignation was beyond bounds. Curd was 
something that could not be had off-hand, and without it 
no meal would be complete. He deeply felt his awkward 
position. Thinking, however, that a dinner wanting a par- 
ticular dish was better than none, he awaited his guests. 



LUCKHINARAIN, THE IDIOT 27 

But he could not bear the presence of his son in the house, 
and so, in spite of his wife's intercession, he turned him out, 
saying that the house should never receive him again. What 
his after-career was, Bhabaghuray has not yet informed us, so 
we must take leave of him here for the present. 



VI 

THE FOUR SWINDLERS 

ONCE, in a certain country, there was a king who was 
on terms of intimate friendship with his prime 
minister, the chief merchant, and the kotdl. Each 
of them had a son, and the four young men were 
great friends. They were very intelligent and learned, and 
being desirous of completing their education by travelling, 
they started on an auspicious day for foreign countries. 
Reaching the kingdom nearest to their own, they heard of its 
king's fame for justice, and of his keen insight in dispensing 
it. Being curious to prove the correctness of the report, they 
resolved to enter his kingdom in disguise, carry on a series of 
swindles, and see how he detected and punished them. 

There was a river on the outskirts of his dominions, which 
had to be crossed before entering them. The young men, on 
reaching it, found a boy in charge of the ferry boat. They 
got into it as passengers, and on inquiry learnt from him that 
his father had just gone home to snatch a hasty meal, and 
that he was acting for him. This knowledge was fully utilized 
by them. They crossed the river, and on landing each gave 
the boy a cowrie, which was not a current coin. He, as was 
natural, refused to take these as his remuneration, whereupon 
the four friends said, "Well, you say your house is on the 
road which we shall have to pass. Come with us, and when 
we are near your house, you may call out to your father that 
we have given you four bad cowries. If he protests against it, 
you may compel us to pay you to your satisfaction." 

The boy agreed to this, and when they came near his home 



THE FOUR SWINDLERS 29 

cried out, " Father, four men have crossed the river, and paid 
me four bad cowries." The intimation was so ambiguously 
worded, according to the dictation of the friends, that the 
ferry-man understood that in the cowries his son had received, 
there were four that were bad, and so he thought little of the 
matter. But when he came to the ghat and learnt from his 
son the whole story, he found that he had been imposed upon, 
and he instantly reported the matter to the king, so that he 
might know of the arrival of swindlers within his dominions. 
The friends, having proceeded further, saw a confectioner's 
shop, and finding there a man acting as its master, whose 
very features betrayed that he was a first-class idiot, they 
proposed to play a trick on him, similar to that which they 
had played upon the ferry-man's son. Entering the shop, 
they ordered some good sandesJi ' and ate as much of it as 
they could. Then, in the course of their conversation with 
the man, they learnt that not he, but his brother, Juggo, who 
was then absent, was the owner of the shop. Hearing the 
name, they said that Juggo was their old friend, and pretended 
great sorrow at not being in time to meet him. When the 
man in the shop asked their names, they said they were 
known as Machees."^ The conversation having come to an 
end, they got up from their seats, and were about to leave, 
when they were asked for the price of the sweetmeats. At 
this they burst into a laugh, patted the man on the back, and 
said, " You are Juggo's younger brother, and so ours, and we 
bless you from our hearts. If our friend were here, he would 
not let us depart so soon, but would force us to be his guests 
for weeks and weeks. To spare you reproaches from him, w^e 
do not like to pay you anything, for if he learns on returning 
that you have taken money for the sweetmeats supplied to his 
beloved Machees, he will be very cross with you. Give him 
our best love, and say that we intend seeing him on our 
return." The poor deluded man, on his brother's arrival home, 
found that he had been cheated. The village Chaiikidar was 

' One of the best Indian sweetmeats. ^ Flies. 



30 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

informed of the swindle, and he of course reported the matter 
to his superiors, and they to the king. 

It was manifest, therefore, to the people of the capital that 
swindlers had found their way into the kingdom, and the king 
instructed the police to be on the alert. The friends had in 
the meantime reached the capital, and were making prepara- 
tions to begin swindling on a grand scale. They had cheated 
two men, the ferryman and the confectioner, who were illiter- 
ate and stupid, but that was nothing in comparison with 
what they were meditating. At the chief seat of Govern- 
ment the four foremost families were the king's, the prime 
minister's, the chief merchant's, and the kotal's, and these 
they selected as their intended victims. Each of the friends 
was to practise his art of deception on the family of equal rank 
to his own. In a short time they became masters of the secrets 
of these families, and began their work, each taking his turn. 

First came the turn of the prime minister's son. He on 
inquiry learnt that his father's equal in the kingdom had a 
young married daughter, in the full bloom of youth and 
beauty, whose husband had never visited her after their 
marriage. With the object of playing her husband's part, 
and thus defrauding her father of much jewellery and other 
valuables, the minister's son one evening called at the house 
of his intended victim, and introduced himself as his son-in- 
law. The old man was not in a position to judge whether 
the young man was in reality his daughter's husband or not, 
for he had not seen the latter since the marriage many years 
before. But in the circumstances, there was no reason for 
doubt, since no stranger was likely to venture to make such a 
pretension. 

The prime minister, accordingly, received his supposed 
son-in-law with great cordiality. The good news was received 
in the Zenana, which in celebration of the joyous event 
resounded with the noise of conch-shells and 2tMs} Great 

1 Musical sounds that Bengali women make on joyous occasions by moving their 
tongues inside their mouths. 



THE FOUR SWINDLERS 31 

festivities took place, after which the pseudo son-in-law was 
shown to his apartments, and the ladies busied themselves in 
decorating the prime minister's daughter as gaily as possible. 
When she was bedecked to their satisfaction, they took the 
bashful girl, trembling with emotion, into her husband's 
apartments and left her with her supposed lord, who on 
seeing her, became a prey to diverse feelings — admiration at 
the beauty of the girl before him, pity at the ruse he was 
practising on the innocent creature, and fear of succumbing to 
temptation. But however intense his feelings, they soon 
yielded to his desire for success in the enterprise. Assuming 
a false gravity and sadness, he thus addressed the girl, " I 
see you do not value me in the least. Well, I deserve this 
for not having seen you so long. But surely these are not 
your best garments. Your jewels are of the poorest kind. 
This is an insult to me. I will never again touch the 
threshold of this house, until I can make you fitting presents." 

The girl was much affected by this tirade. Sobbing she 
ran out of the room to her mother, who, on hearing her 
report, brought out the most precious gems in the house, and 
bedecking her with them, led her back to her husband's 
apartments and left^ her there. Her supposed husband, in 
order to avoid making any such overtures as might afterwards 
give rise to scandal, feigned to feel unwell and very drowsy, 
and fell into a pretended sleep. The girl therefore could not 
do otherwise than fall asleep too. It was during the small 
hours of the morning, when dead silence still reigned over 
the whole house, that the young man quietly rose up, removed 
the jewels and the rich clothes from the girl's body, and tying 
them in a small bundle, made towards the gate, and under 
pretence of some unavoidable and urgent business outside, 
deceived the guard, and showed a clean pair of heels. Before 
dawn he met his friends in the house they had hired, and they 
heartily congratulated him on the success of his adventure. 

The prime minister's daughter on awaking, and finding 
herself alone and bereft of her clothes and jewels, was 



32 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

thunderstruck. With a loud shriek she fell into a swoon. 
Her parents hurried to her, and it did not take them long 
to see what had happened. On inquiry, they learnt from her 
the full details of the case, and the prime minister hastened 
to the court with the information. He received the sincerest 
sympathy at having been so mercilessly robbed, and the kotal 
was at once summoned, apprised of the affairs of the past 
night, and commanded to exercise great vigilance, so that 
similar cases might not occur in future. 

The four friends were by no means cowards, and especially 
desired to make a prey of people prepared to oppose them. 
One of them, therefore, on the morning following the above 
incidents, called at the court in the disguise of an astrologer, 
and after the set form of speech peculiar to professors of 
astrology, said, " O Incarnation of justice ! Four dangerous 
men have entered your majesty's kingdom with the intention 
of committing mischief. Last night one of them robbed His 
Excellency the Prime Minister. To-day again, one of them 
will try to make the chief merchant, Sadagar Mahashai, his 
victim. I reveal this secret so that your majesty may take 
means to thwart the wicked man's purpose." 

The king dismissed the fictitious astrologer with rich 
presents, and called on the kotal to keep a special guard round 
the merchant's house. The whole city was awake, and 
sentinels paraded the streets, lanes and by-lanes. The pro- 
spective hero of the night, the merchant's son, whom we have 
referred to at the beginning of our story, was in the meantime 
making preparations to carry out his scheme of robbing the 
chief merchant in the city. Having ascertained that this man's 
old mother was a devoted worshipper of the god Shiva, to 
whom she had built a temple in the most unfrequented part 
of her son's extensive property, and whom she worshipped 
there every evening, he intended impersonating the god, and 
thus robbing her of everything valuable that she had amassed 
during her past life. A bull was secured, for the god was 
believed to ride only on an animal of this species, and 



THE FOUR SWINDLERS 33 

having saddled it, our hero, when the shades of evening were 
approaching, got on its back, he himself being wrapped in a 
tiger skin, and smeared all over the body with ashes, since 
this was Shiva s usual habit. Like the god, he carried a horn 
in his hand, and thus equipped, he proceeded to the temple 
through a jungly path, the facsimile of him whom he 
represented. He reached the temple while the merchant's 
mother was engaged in devotional exercises, and with bom, 
bom, bom, the supposed watch-word of Shiva, he burst into 
the room riding the bull. The old lady looked up, and 
beside herself with joy on recognizing him whom she took 
to be her tutelary god, she made obeisance after obeisance, 
and when the prostrations were over, stood before him with 
folded palms. Her visitor played his part to perfection and 
said, "My daughter, I am very much pleased with you and your 
devotions. You are no longer to be left in this wicked world 
and so I come to take you to Kaildsh, my abode." At the 
words, the Sadagar's mother was greatly moved. She shed 
tears of joy and gratitude, and expressed instant readiness to 
be taken into that celestial country. The wily actor, in order 
to extort everything valuable his victim had, thus broke 
forth, " Oh Mother, it does not become you to go to Kailash 
Avithout money or gems. Present them to your mother, 
Bhagabati, and your brethren Nandi and Bhringi, my faithful 
attendants." 

The merchant's mother, hearing these words, asked per- 
mission to fetch all she had, and it being granted, she 
hastened to her room, emptied her well-filled coffers, and 
returned to the temple with immense treasure hid in a bundle 
of cloth. The false Shiva took her upon the bull, and drove 
it away till he reached the thickest part of the jungle, where 
he pushed her off the animal's back, and left her bruised and 
wounded. Getting into the public road, he drove the animal 
off to graze, and hurried on to where he lodged with his 
friends. His reception was as cordial as might have been 
expected, and the night was passed in great merriment. 

D 



34 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

Next morning the bed of the merchant's mother was 
found empty and no trace of her was to be discovered. The 
strictest search was made throughout the house, but to no 
effect. At length some of the merchants' neatherds, who had 
gone with their charges early to the adjacent jungle, found her 
half-dead with fright and exposure and brought her before 
her son. On being asked her experiences during the past 
night, she burst into bitter lamentations, and said, "O, how 
wretched am I ! When I had nearly reached the doors of 
Kailashpuri, I accidentally fell down. May God be merciful 
and take me there again, to enjoy that blissful abode in 
the society of mother Bhagabati and brothers Nandi and 
Bhringi." Being asked what she meant, she faithfully 
narrated what had happened and her son at once saw the 
hoax that had been played upon her, and hurried off to the 
court with the information. All were paralyzed with astonish- 
ment and they racked their brains to discover means to detect 
the perpetrators of these crimes, and prevent them from 
molesting others. At that moment, the preceding day's 
fictitious astrologer came in and prophesied that during the 
following night the kotal's house would be plundered, and 
he himself put to torture. The head of the police, however, 
was not the man to be frightened. He bragged of his 
sagacity and vigilance, and scouted the idea of being cir- 
cumvented. But before the next morning dawned, he was 
destined to be taken completely unawares and robbed of every 
valuable article he possessed. 

Evening drew near, and nature was quickly clothed in 
her sable garb. The kotal's son, who was to play his part, 
dressed himself as the princess of the kingdom, imitated her 
voice and manners, taking his friends with him disguised as 
her attendants, and carrying with him all the things required 
for worship. The plan adopted was that the kotaTs son, the 
chief actor that night, should in his female dress impersonate 
the princess, and his companions her followers. All four 
bent their steps towards the temple of Kali near the palace. 



THE FOUR SWINDLERS 35 

Their female attire afforded them security and no policeman 
dared challenge them. But when they arrived at the spot 
where the kotal of the kingdom was personally superintending 
his forces, he, filled with suspicion, laid his hand on the 
shoulder of him who played the part of the princess. The 
latter at once assumed the dignity and tone of an affronted 
lady, and threatened to report the kotal's insolence to the 
king. The officer, under the impression that the person 
speaking was no other than the princess herself, fell on his 
knees and begged for pardon, which was granted on condition 
that he would amuse them by showing them how criminals 
were put in the stocks. The kotal, hastening to comply with 
their request, led them into the jail, and having none under- 
going the punishment at the time, took off his coat, laid 
himself flat on his back, and asked one of them to put him 
into the stocks. It was no sooner done, than the hero of the 
night dressed himself in the uniform of the man at his mercy, 
went to his wife and so cleverly impersonated her husband, 
that he induced her to make over every valuable gem and 
jewel she possessed, to be kept securely by him until the 
morning. Then the young men, with their precious spoil, 
hurriedly left the place for their own house. 

The next morning the kotal was missing, and the whole 
court and the members of his family, who were full of anxiety, 
looked for him everywhere without success. At length an 
inferior police officer happened by chance to enter the jail, 
and great was his consternation on finding the kotal stretched 
at full length on the ground, with the stocks on his feet. 
Being instantly liberated, the prefect of police saw his wife, 
who with tears related how the most precious things in the 
house had been taken away. The man was pierced to the 
heart to realize that he was now reduced to poverty, and 
hastened to the court with the report of the outrage done to 
him. Some pitied him, others less favourably disposed, 
laughed in their sleeves at his expense. A little later the 
pretender to astrological knowledge made his appearance as 



36 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

usual, and announced that the king himself would be the next 
victim. 

The sensation that prevailed after this announcement can 
be better imagined than described, and the whole city was in 
great consternation. The police force was augmented by 
recruits from the mofussil, mercenaries from all over the 
kingdom within a day's march were enrolled, and every house 
in the city sent out its volunteers. The king, at sunset, fully 
accoutred, patrolled the streets on horseback, and it seemed as 
if every door was shut against intruders. 

Galloping far and near, the king on one of his rides 
towards the outskirts of the city, found a Jogi absorbed in his 
meditations, with a fire burning before him. The king was 
inspired with veneration for the Jogi's sanctity and bowed low 
to him, informing him of his troubles, and begging him to 
frustrate the evil purposes of his enemies. The Jogi 
expressed great sympathy, and offered to go to the palace, and 
cast a spell round it, so as to make it impervious to any attack. 
The king said that that was out of the question, for he had 
left word that nobody should be permitted to approach the 
palace. At that the Jogi appeared to give up the project, but 
the king, after musing within himself, came to a decision on 
the matter. 

He said that the religious man might put on the royal 
dress, and riding on the royal horse, might reach the palace 
unopposed. The plan seemed feasible, but another difficulty 
stood in the way. The Jogi said that the fire burning before 
him was sacrificial, and that it was necessary that it should be 
preserved. The king, however, volunteered to attend to it, 
and the two men thereupon exchanged clothes. The king 
then sat down by the fire to replenish it while the ascetic rode 
to the palace. 

The Jogi was no other than the prince of the foreign 
kingdom, bent on practising his ruse, and on he sped, until 
entering the palace, he hastened to the queen and talked to 
her so cleverly that no suspicion as to his identity entered 



THE FOUR SWINDLERS 37 

her mind. He pretended a great deal of apprehension, and 
induced her to deliver into his hands all the most precious 
gems and jewels in her custody. This done, he rode away, 
though not to the place where he had left the king, but to his 
lodgings. 

The poor king waited for the Jogi's return for many hours, 
and when he could no longer command his patience, he 
wearily walked to the gate of the palace. On attempting to 
get in, however, he was repulsed by the police. On his 
becoming imperious they laughed at him, and then thrashed 
him so that he lay insensible during the remaining hours of 
the night. But when the sun rose above the horizon, some 
of the sentinels recognized him, and with aching hearts 
removed him to his bed, where it took him some considerable 
time to recover. 

Later in the day he attended the court, and with tears 
narrated his experiences of the past night. The false 
astrologer was present ; but this time the courtiers suspected 
him. They rightly thought that he must be an accomplice 
of the robbers ; and one of them went so far as to throw 
out inuendoes regarding his complicity, and to advise his 
instant dismissal from the court, after he had been severely 
chastised. The object of this treatment, without making any 
protest, went away, and when he met his friends, they 
concocted a plan for the punishment of the courtier. What 
that plan was, we shall see later. 

The court rose, and people went to their own homes in no 
enviable humour. They were all filled with suspense. 
Nobody knew who was to be the next victim. The security 
offered by the presence of the police was no security at all, 
and most of the citizens thought of leaving their homes for 
some other country. Human succour could no longer be 
relied upon, and appeal was made to the gods for the removal 
of the curse. The king resigned himself to the hands of fate, 
and after attending the special devotional services that were 
held, sought his bed. 



38 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

Let us now divert our attention to the four men who had 
caused him and his people so much trouble. With a basket 
of sweetmeats, they knocked at the gate of the courtier who 
had that morning insulted one of them. The owner of the 
house, unwilling to receive strangers at so late an hour, did 
not open the gate, but asked from inside who his visitors 
were. To this they replied that they were bearers of presents 
from the king. The poor man's gullibility got the better of 
his judgment and half opening the gate, he thrust forth his 
right hand to receive the gift. But, alas, that hand would 
never more be used, for the greater part of it was chopped off, 
and the courtier rolled on the ground in great agony. His 
assailants vanished before his shrieks could be heard by his 
people, and hurriedly proceeded towards that side of the 
palace where the king's bed-room stood. Through its open 
window, they thrust the courtier's hand, tied to a pole, so that 
it touched the king's head. The king, instantly jumping up, 
cut at it with the sword lying beside him, and exulted greatly 
at the idea of having dismembered one of those who had so 
long been his pests and having thus found a clue to the 
discovery of the whole gang. 

The next morning the king got up and instructed the 
kotal to send his men round to find out a man whose right 
hand had been cut off. But the man had not far to go for the 
unfortunate courtier was found coming to the palace, with his 
mutilated wrist hidden in a bandage slung round his neck. 
This at once aroused suspicion in their minds, and taking off 
the bandage they saw that the hand was missing and at once 
jumped to the conclusion that the man they wanted was before 
them. They led him bound to the king, and the account he 
gave of the night's adventure not being believed, he was 
sentenced to be tortured until he named his accomplices, and 
finally, if he did not confess, to be executed. The work of 
torture was about to commence, when the four young men, 
the cause of his misfortune, came to the court, dressed accord- 
ing to their rank, and made a clean breast of everything. 



THE FOUR SWINDLERS 39 

They had brought with them all their spoils, and they laid 
them at the king's feet with many apologies for the trouble 
they had caused. The king, too generous and humorous not 
to understand their motives, embraced them, and sent them 
away with many presents, giving the hand of his daughter to 
the prince. The kotal and the merchant also had marriageable 
daughters, and these they gave to the two young men whose 
fathers in their own country were of the same rank as them- 
selves. The prime minister had a young maiden niece whom 
he married to him who had once impersonated his son-in-law. 
A veil was drawn over the past, and the four friends with 
their wives returned safely to their own country, not forgetting 
to make ample amends to the confectioner and the boatman 
for the deception they had practised upon them. 



VII 

KATMANUSH, OR THE HUMAN BEING 
WHO WAS MADE OF WOOD 

y4 T a fair held on the borders of two contiguous king- 
/% doms, there assembled a large crowd, but amongst 
J^ ^^ all those who gathered there, two especially attracted 
the chief attention ; the prince of one of the king- 
doms, and the princess of the other. They were complete 
strangers to one another and happening both to fancy the 
same exquisite article which was for sale, they began bargain- 
ing for it. Taking advantage of the competition, the seller 
raised its price, till at last the prince thought it to be too 
high, and left the article for the princess to buy. But he was 
galled at the disappointment and beckoning the princess aside, 
he whispered into her ear, " If I ever possess you as my wife, 
I shall leave you, even on the day of our marriage." The 
princess also in a whisper made the reply, " If what you 
suppose takes place, I shall make you ^■sX. jhole-bhdt^ for six 
months." By this threat, she meant that she would make him 
lie prostrate on a sick-bed for six months. 

The two then parted, though neither of them forgot the 
episode. In the course of a few months, the prince's father, 
thinking of marrying his son, sent Gkafaks^ to the neigh- 
bouring kingdoms, and the princess's father happened at the 
same time to do the same with regard to his daughter. The 
Ghataks of both countries met, and patched up a contract of 
marriage between the prince and the princess, to be in time 
confirmed by their fathers. The contract was ratified, and 

^ Boiled rice and thin broth. " Match makers. 



KATMANUSH 41 

the required preliminaries having been gone through, the 
marriage day was fixed. The two young persons most 
interested in the affair remained in ignorance of the fact that 
there was soon to be the very relationship between themselves 
that they had, but a few months ago, imagined and made 
vows concerning. Great therefore was their astonishment 
when they met before the priest, to be united in the bonds of 
matrimony. 

The ceremony duly came to an end and the prince and 
the princess were about to be conducted into the bridal 
chamber, when the former, alleging some urgent duty as a 
plea, left the palace never to retrace his steps. The bride 
therefore was compelled to pass the night without her 
husband. She understood full well what his absence meant 
but instead of regretting her former impertinence, she rather 
bragged of it to herself, and renewed her own vow a thousand 
times. 

Months passed without the husband or wife hearing of 
each other. Their parents kept a good understanding between 
themselves but the chief parties remained indifferent. One 
morning, a woman, apparently made of wood, but possessed 
of the power of moving, speaking, and acting like a human 
being, came to the prince's mother, and asked service of her. 
The whole house was in amazement at this prodigy. But the 
voice and words of sense coming from the abnormal form so 
captivated the queen that she could not refuse the services 
offered. The woman gave her name as Kdtiiidnush^ and 
closed the contract, saying that there were two conditions that 
must be made ; one, that she should never be told to cook, and 
the other, that she must be permitted to sleep alone in her 
own room. Being promised these things, she worked as an 
ordinary servant. 

Time passed, and Katmaniish endeared herself to every 
one in her mistress's family. The prince talked kindly to her 
and the king bestowed especial favour on her. One evening 

' A human being made of wood. 



42 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

there was a fair held near the palace and its inmates went 
there, leaving her behind. She being alone and thus free to 
act as she liked, emerged from her wooden frame, which as the 
reader may by this time have guessed, had been assumed by 
her as a disguise, and went to the roof of the palace to take 
the evening air, not suspecting that any one would intrude. 
But she was wrong in her calculations, for the prince returning 
to the house on some urgent business, knocked at the gate. 
She hastily resumed her wooden frame and opened the door 
to him, whereupon he at once asked who the lady of unrivalled 
beauty on the roof was. She said she was ignorant of any 
lady being in the house, and though the prince remained 
silent, the vivid impression made upon him by the extra- 
ordinary manifestation of beauty his eyes had seen could not 
be effaced from his mind. There was hardly a moment when 
he did not think of her who had captivated his heart, and he 
greatly longed to see her again. But his longing was vain, for 
the time being at least, and he gradually pined away. Great 
mental anguish produced bodily distempers, and the healthy 
and vigorous young man was turned into a skeleton. He lost 
his appetite and the power of digestion and was forced to 
take to his bed. Nobody knew the cause of his complaint 
except Katmaniish, who kept the secret from them all. At 
length all hope of the prince's life was given up and a 
message was sent to his sister, living in her father-in-law's 
house, that she must visit her brother at once, if she wished 
to see him alive. 

What sister can remain away from the bed-side of a 
brother in such a plight ? The princess without a moment's 
delay started for her father's palace. But the journey was too 
long to be accomplished in one day, so she was compelled to 
halt by the way to spend the night. Near the inn where she 
stopped, there was a temple of Shiva, and she fell prostrate 
before the god to supplicate him for the recovery of her 
brother. Thereupon the god revealed to her, that the prince 
was certain to get well if she who was named Katmantlsh 



KATMANUSH 43 

would cook his food for six months, and sleep in the same 
room with him for the same time. 

Delighted with this communication, she sped to her 
brother's side, and informed her mother of the instructions of 
Shiva. Katmaniish was then called in, and piteously asked 
to save the prince's life. She raised many objections, the 
chief among them being that she would not, as she had 
stipulated at the beginning of her service, cook or sleep with 
any living mortal. At this the queen and the princess became 
very importunate. They fell at her feet, and with tears rolling- 
down their cheeks entreated her to preserve from an untimely 
death him whom they loved more than their lives. She at 
length gave in on the condition that when cooking, she must 
be left alone with the doors shut and that when she slept with 
the prince, there must be no light in the room. We need 
hardly say that the conditions were gladly accepted, and from 
that very day Katmanush began ministering to the prince. 

Six months expired in this way, and during the first night 
after the termination of that period, Katmanush as usual lay 
by the side of the prince in total darkness. She could not 
sleep owing to the different feelings that agitated her. Love 
struggled with pride, and pity with feminine bashfulness, until 
at last, casting aside the wooden cover that hid her charms, 
she lit the lamp in the room, awakened the prince and stood 
before him endowed with all those charms that had from the 
house-top turned his head. He gazed at her, and dim recol- 
lections of the past crept into his mind, until at last convinced 
that the lady before him was no other than his wife, he hugged 
her to his bosom. 

Next morning, the whole royal family were surprised to 
find the door of the prince's room shut, even when the sun 
gilded the domes of the palace. That Katmanush should be 
so late in quitting the room was a mystery to them, and the 
queen herself, afraid that some mishap might have happened 
to her son, called at last from outside, until the sleepers 
awakened and opened the door to her. We can easily realize 



44 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

how thunderstruck she was to see a lady of ravishing beauty 
in the place of the servant of abnormal shape, and her son 
with the flush of health and cheerfulness on his countenance. 
Explanations were given, and the queen, setting fire to the 
frame of wood with her own hands, led the prince and princess 
to the king. The whole city soon became a scene of joy. All 
the houses in it were grandly decorated, and during the night 
there were magnificent illuminations and fireworks. The 
happy couple viewed the scene from a splendid chariot driven 
from one end of the city to the other, the people in crowds 
shouting, " Long live the prince and the princess Katmanush!" 



VIII 
THE WILY BRAHMIN 

THERE was once a certain Brahmin and his wife who 
although they were in quite good circumstances 
were very miserly. It was rumoured that they had 
amassed a considerable sum of money in cash, and 
that the gold mohurs and rupees in their chest were covered 
with rust. Some thieves, hearing of this, one night 
approached their house, and from behind the sleeping-room 
began consulting as to the best means by which they could 
get inside. They supposed the Brahmin and his better half 
to be asleep, and so were not too careful to talk only in 
whispers. But their intended victims were awake, and the 
Brahmin determined not only to thwart them, but to utilize 
their labours for his own benefit. So in an audible and 
distinct voice, he said to his wife, " O Brahmini, I fear thieves 
will to-night break into our house. But what can they find ? 
All our wealth is safely buried in the field just behind the 
house." 

The thieves on hearing this, naturally gave up the idea of 
housebreaking, and all in a body, their number being about a 
score, left the place and, having secured hoes and spades, 
returned to the field, and dug it from one end to the other. 
But to their surprise they found nothing worth having. The 
Brahmin, however, reaped great benefit from their labour. It 
was the proper season of the year to have the field dug and 
prepared for the cultivation of rice, and he thus got the dig- 
ging done by the thieves without spending a single cowrie for 
the purpose. 



46 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

Disappointed, though not dispirited, the thieves made 
their appearance the next night behind the Brahmin's window, 
intending to break through it. He was expecting them, how- 
ever, and hearing the sounds of their footsteps when they 
came to the spot, he addressed his wife, saying, " You see how 
I have baulked the thieves. I suspected their approach, and 
therefore to hoax them I spoke of having buried my treasures 
in the field, while in reality I have kept them at the bottom of 
the tank beside it." 

The thieves, hearing the words, at once went off and 
secured very capacious vessels to empty the tank, and set to 
the work in right earnest. The tank soon looked liked a dry 
pit, while all its water had run over the field, fertilizing the 
soil for the purpose of agriculture and thus saving the 
Brahmin considerable expense. 

The Brahmin, fearing that the thieves having been baulked 
twice, would muster in greater force than before and make a 
more determined and desperate effort, left home the next 
evening to secure the services of some hirelings to make a 
strong resistance against attack. A thick darkness covered 
the fields as he anxiously sped on his errand. In the middle 
of one of the fields he saw six stalwart men seated in a circle 
round a fire at which they were warming themselves. He 
drew towards them, for he too was feeling cold, and to make 
room for himself said to one of them, " Saratobhdi tdpdi." ^ 
Now the beings he saw were not men but ghosts, but they 
also, being of flesh and blood, feel cold as well as men, and 
require to warm their limbs, and the one addressed, whose 
name was Tapai, was startled to hear, as he imagined, a 
human being calling him by name. In a nasal tone, peculiar 
to ghosts alone, he exclaimed " Brahmin I how did you know 
my name, and come to address me so familiarly ? " The 
Brahmin was petrified with awe at hearing the voice, for it 
took him no time to realize that he was in the midst of a 
company of ghosts. But he summoned up his courage and 

^ Move a little, brother, I will warm myself. 



THE WILY BRAHMIN 47 

said, " Friend, though you seem not to know me, I know you 
well." At this another ghost, to try him, asked him if he 
knew his name, and the Brahmin replied, " Hilldh re bhdi 
Hilldh } don't I know your name ? " This too hit the mark, 
for the ghost's name was Hillah, and the word the Brahmin 
had uttered as an interjection, sufficed to save him from much 
trouble and perhaps even from death. The ghosts at once 
took him as their friend, and asked him the motive that 
brought him to them. He told them how a band of ruffians 
was in league against him, and how great was his need of 
helpers, and they in a body accompained him to his house for 
the purpose of assisting him. 

It was near upon midnight when they reached the house, 
and the Brahmin, giving his friends some supper, asked them 
to wait unseen for the thieves. Taking unsubstantial forms, 
they remained hid in the hollow of a Chalta tree in the yard. 
They had not long to wait, for those whom they expected 
soon made their appearance. This night their plan of attack 
was different. Having given up the idea of house-breaking, 
they determined to make an open attack, and scaling the walls 
and jumping down into the yard, they intended bursting open 
the main door of the building. But again they heard the 
Brahmin and his wife talking, and apprehensive that when 
still awake they might give the alarm to their neighbours, 
they resolved to tarry for a while. There was in the yard 
a taktaposh^ and they sat down on it for a little rest, intend- 
ing to make their attack when the immates of the house 
should fall asleep. But while they were thus awaiting the 
proper moment, tired Nature pressed her claims upon them, 
and the hard labour that they had undergone during the past 
two nights, which had allowed them not a wink of sleep, 
caused them to feel very drowsy, and at length they fell 
soundly asleep on the bed. 

The Brahmin opened the door of his room as silently as 
possible, approached on tiptoe the Chalta tree, and asked his 

' Hallo ! brother. ^ A wooden bed. 



48 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

ghostly friends to break off a number of the fruit, tie half a 
dozen of them to the long hair of each thief, and then give 
chase to them. His friends did as directed, and the thieves 
on being awakened ran out of the house as fast as they could, 
hearing shouts of " mar-salader " ^ uttered by the ghosts, and 
receiving blows from the Chalta fruit that kept hitting them 
on their backs as they ran. These they took to be stones 
and brick-bats thrown at them and they made good their 
escape half dead with fright. 

Never again did they think of molesting the Brahmin, 
whom they now knew to be too full of resource for them to 
get him into their power. They disappeared from the quarter 
in which he lived, and the resourceful Brahmin's very name 
became a terror to evil-doers. 

1 " Thrash the salas." 



IX 

HATI SING, OR THE VANQUISHER OF AN 

ELEPHANT 



I 



■^HERE once lived a very poor family, consisting 
only of a mother and her son. The latter was 
worthless, and unable to earn a pice for the main- 
tenance of his mother or himself. The poor 
woman had to submit to the greatest drudgery, in spite of 
which they could hardly get sufficient food to keep them alive. 
One day, in the bitterness of her heart, she cast reproaches at 
her son, Dulal, for the useless way in which he passed his life. 
The young man felt the reproaches deeply, and knowing full 
well that it was beyond his power to improve, he formed the 
resolution of committing suicide. 

Poisoning seemed to him the best method of carrying out 
his resolution. But whence could he get the poison ? To buy 
any was out of the question, for that would require money, of 
which he had none. His inventive mind, however, soon 
devised a way. He went to a place which he knew to be 
frequented by cobras, and finding one of them, hit it on the 
tail with a stick and placed a plantain leaf before it. The 
infuriated reptile, with its hood erect, bit the leaf, and 
deposited its poison on it. Dulal was delighted with his 
success, and begging a little iniirhi^ from a neighbouring 
shop, to mix with the poison in order to take off its hot and 
pungent taste, he went to the bank of the river Ganges to end 
his life there. A bath in the river is supposed by Hindus to 
be the surest passport into heaven, and Dulal, an orthodox 

' Fried rice. 



50 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

Hindu, entertaining this belief, walked into the water, leaving 
the murhi mixed with poison on the steps of the ghat. He 
intended to eat the mm'hi and pass out of life after the 
purifying bath. But Bidhatapiirush ^ ordained otherwise, for 
as soon as he dipped his head into the water the king's 
elephant, which had been brought there for a drink, saw the 
niurhi lying before him, and ate it up. The cobra poison 
entered its system, and acted so quickly that in a moment the 
elephant began to give up its life. Dulal, getting out of the 
river and coming to the spot where he left the mi'trJii, at once 
realized that the elephant had deprived him of the means of 
committing suicide, and in his rage he gave the offender a slap. 
Now although the slap would have been of no consequence 
whatever if it had been given to a healthy elephant, when it 
fell on an animal already tottering on its legs on account of 
the poison, it had the effect of knocking the enormous beast 
over. The slap and the fall happening at the same moment, 
the people on the river side supposed the former to have caused 
the latter, and gazed at Dulal with wonder and fear. They 
regarded him as a Hercules and the report of the feat soon 
spread far and wide, until it reached the king, and produced 
a mixed feeling of grief and joy ; grief for the elephant's death, 
and joy at the prospect of securing the services of a man able, 
by a slap, to kill such an animal, and thus by his strength defy 
the enemies of the Crown. 

Dulal was at once brought before the king in a cJiatiirdola, 
and the king was surprised to see in the killer of the elephant 
a skeleton, with blue rings round his eyes, the signs of in- 
temperance and weakness. But he remembered that external 
appearances are often deceptive and he employed Dulal as his 
Jamadar, or Head Durwan, on a monthly salary of two 
hundred rupees. By way of distinction, the name of Hati 
Sing was given him, and he passed his days lazily but happily 
with his mother, whom he had in the first dawn of his palmy 
days taken to live with him. He became the favourite of the 

^ The Supreme Being. 



HATI SING 51 

king, who soon found him a wife in one of the most beautiful 
girls in the kingdom. 

Hati Sing's fame rang far and wide throughout the 
country. One day a band of Kabiilis sought the king's 
presence, and urged him to fix a wrestling match between 
them and Hati Sing. On the day appointed for the competi- 
tion, the Kabiilis appeared before the king, but Hati Sing, 
knowing that for him to stand before them as an opponent 
was as foolish as for a blade of grass to rear its head against 
a hurricane, put off the catastrophe by saying that it was 
beneath him, as a Hindu, to touch or to be touched by them. 
But the Kabiilis would not let him escape thus. They urged 
him to try his strength with them in some other way, and the 
king told them that he would think over the matter, and let 
them know his decision on the morrow. 

But they were not to see the next day's light. Hati Sing, 
by means of money and influence, bribed the keeper of the inn 
in which they slept during the night to hide a venomous 
snake under their beds. The poor men retired to sleep and 
their sleep ended in death, caused by the fangs of the destruc- 
tive reptile. So no more had Hati Sing to fear them. Left 
undisputed master of the field, he went on practising his 
deception and amassing wealth, till at length, after the lapse 
of some years, death carried him off under circumstances that 
disabused the king and his subjects of the confidence they 
had so long placed in him. A fruit-seller came to the palace- 
gate with the choicest mangoes for sale. Hati Sing's mouth 
watered at the sight of them and he demanded some mangoes 
as a bribe for the man's admission into the royal presence. 
But the man would not part with any of his mangoes without 
receiving their price, and so an altercation took place between 
him and Hati Sing, in the course of which the latter said, 
" You fool, you do not know who it is who asks you for a few 
mangoes. It is the redoubtable Jamadar, Hati Sing." To 
this the fruit-seller, who had heard neither the name nor the 
fame of the person bearing it, replied, " I have seen many 



52 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

a Hati Sing in my time, but if you touch one of my mangoes 
I will soon see that you are a dead man." This was an insult 
which our hero, to maintain his prestige among the others at 
the gate, could not pass over, and with a kick he upset the 
basket of mangoes. But no sooner was this done, than a 
severe blow from the muscular right arm of the fruit-seller 
laid him prostrate on the ground. In a (qw minutes the 
whole palace, including the king himself, came to the place of 
occurrence, and what was their wonder to find their champion 
Hati Sing on the point of death from a single blow given by 
an ordinary man. Comments were made by every tongue, 
while Hati Sing, knowing that his end was near, and that 
there was no need for further deception, faithfully narrated 
his own history, and then gave up the ghost. It was a sad 
and shameful death, but deceit seldom fails to meet its own 
deserts in the end. 



T 



X 

THE COUNTRY OF SWINDLERS 

HERE was a certain Sadagar^ who on his death- 
bed said to his son, " My son, I am in a short time 
to leave the world. The riches I have gained will 
enable you to sit with one leg over the other and 
eat. There will be no need for you to visit foreign countries. 
If you take a fancy, however, to do so, I adjure you never to 
think of going to the country in the far east known as the 
' Country of Swindlers.' " 

Several years followed the merchant's death, and his son, 
stepping into his shoes, maintained the credit of the family. 
But it was impossible for the young man to fight against the 
decrees of fate. A good many of his speculations failed, and 
there was a considerable strain upon his purse, so that, to 
retrieve his fortune by foreign trade, he fitted out four ships 
laden with merchandise, and bade farewell to his country, at 
least for a time. 

At first the voyage was prosperous, but one day the sea 
through which the ships were passing became unusually rough. 
Waves rose mountains high while the sky became so overcast 
that it was almost pitch dark. The crew, even experienced as 
they were, lost their way, and called on the gods for help. 
For three days the elements remained furious without 
intermission, and the ships were sent adrift. At length, 
however, it cleared up, and the merchant and his men found 
themselves near the shore of a country which, though 
unknown to the former, was well known to the latter. It was 

1 Merchant. 



54 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

the " Country of Swindlers," and on learning the name from 
his men, the young merchant trembled with great fear. It 
was the very country of which his father had warned him, and 
now he was compelled to land on it, for to divert the course of 
the ships was impossible. 

Resigning himself to the hands of fate, he ordered the 
vessels to be driven to the nearest port. This was being 
done when the merchant, seeing a snow-white heron, was led 
by his evil genius to shoot it dead. No sooner did this 
happen than a fuller, who was washing clothes near by, ran to 
the spot and fell to the ground, beating his breast and tearing 
his hair. He took up the dead heron, kissed it a hundred 
times, and then furiously abused the merchant for having 
killed his father, who as a heron had been helping him in 
washing clothes. The merchant, as was natural, laughed at 
the idea, and the washerman hastened to the king and filed a 
petition for damages. The alleged offender was hauled before 
the court, and on his failing to defend himself — for what 
defence could be made in such a preposterous case ? — the king, 
who was a partner in his subject's exactions, decreed that one 
of the ships with her merchandise should be given as 
satisfaction to the wronged washerman. 

The merchant, much crest-fallen, went back to his ships, 
and had the mortification of witnessing the execution of the 
decree. He hoped, however, that with the remaining three he 
would be able to escape from this accursed country. But of 
them also he was destined to be deprived in a very short time. 
As soon as he was on board, a woman with two urchins, 
having cunningly succeeded in getting his father's name from 
one of his men, drew near and said, " O my son, do you not 
know what I am to you ? I am your stepmother, the widow 
of your father " (here she gave the latter's name) " left penniless 
by him. Make an ample provision for me and these my 
children." The merchant, of course, scoffed at so absurd a 
claim, and thrust the woman out of his presence. But the 
matter did not end there. Like the washerman, the woman 



THE COUNTRY OF SWINDLERS 55 

ran to the king and, the unfortunate merchant being unable to 
disprove her words, the king decreed to her another of his 
ships with the merchandise and crew. 

Two ships only remained, and the merchant made pre- 
parations for instant departure, but when the sails were about 
to be unfurled, a barber made his appearance in search of 
customers. The merchant having had no shave for months, 
called him in, and offered him an anna for his labour. But 
the barber would not consent, whereupon the merchant said 
that he would pay what the barber should deem sufficient. The 
bargain being struck, the barber did his work. When, how- 
ever, his customer offered a rupee as recompense, he knit his 
brow and refused to take so small a sum, saying that he did 
not think it enough and that he thought that a ship with all 
that it contained was his adequate reward. The merchant had 
him driven out, and the barber, hurrying away to the court, 
in the absence of the merchant got the third of the ships 
decreed as his due recompense. 

The ships of the merchant were thus reduced to one, and 
this one was set hastily in motion. But just at that moment 
a man blind of one eye came up to him, and said that at one 
time he had pawned an eye of his to the merchant's father for 
a thousand rupees, and that he was now ready with the money 
to redeem his eye. Saying this, the blind rogue counted 
down the exact sum, and demanded the instant delivery of 
what he had pledged. The merchant could not but think that 
another trick was being played upon him, and that by another 
royal decree he would soon have to part with his last and only 
ship. Nevertheless he could not refrain from kicking out the 
rascal, who at once went to the king, and applied for what he 
called justice. The result of the proceedings was just the 
same as in the other cases brought against the merchant, and 
the poor man, deprived of all his ships, merchandise, and 
men, was left alone in this strange land of merciless swindlers. 
In the circumstances there was nothing left for him to do but 
to set out on foot along the seashore, hoping that he might 



56 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

eventually reach some other country. But he had not long to 
remain in this pitiable situation. After he had gone a few 
miles, he met a company of robbers armed to the teeth and 
under a leader of remarkably stalwart appearance, though 
bearing the signs of age. The merchant's handsome appear- 
ance, seen even under the gloom of despondency that had 
overcast him, attracted the leader's attention and awoke in him 
some painful recollection that had long remained dormant in 
his mind. It was that of his son, no longer in the land of 
the living, to whom he thought the young man before him bore 
an exact likeness. He therefore approached the merchant, 
and hearing his story, at once volunteered to rescue him from 
his helpless position, and took him to the king to compel the 
latter to hear what the merchant had to say to repel the charges 
brought against him, and to revise the unjust judgments pro- 
nounced against him. The presence of this imposing leader 
at the head of his men considerably cowed the king, for he by 
experience knew that they were too formidable to be trifled with. 
The king then assembled his court and called upon the 
merchant to state his case, upon which the latter, according to 
the instructions of his friend, the robber chief, spoke thus, 
" O Incarnation of Justice, with your Majesty's permission, I 
beg to answer the charges on which my ships, merchandise, 
and men have been taken away from me, and made over to 
those who plotted against me. May I be heard with im- 
partiality, in the event of which I shall have back everything 
I have lost. Now as to the first charge brought by the 
Avasherman, I beg to say that even if I killed his father in the 
heron, I did so under great provocation. I started on my 
voyage with my dead father, who had assumed the form of a 
ddnkond ^ to show me the way, and when I reached the tree on 
which the heron was perched, the bird made a swoop on my 
father, the ddnkond, and made an end of him. Let the 
washerman, the owner of the first aggressor, give me back my 
father and then I will do the same with regard to his father." 

•^ A very small fish. 



THE COUNTRY OF SWINDLERS 57 

The robbers gave loud applause in approval of the 
argument and the king dismissed the washerman's case, 
ordering the ship taken by him to be restored to the merchant 
with its cargo and crew. The washerman was at once 
summoned and forced to obey the order. 

The second charge, that brought by a woman, was then 
taken up by the merchant, and again instructed by the robber 
chief he spoke, " Mighty king, I admit that the woman who 
claimed to be provided for by me is actually my stepmother ; 
and I am prepared to take her and her children with me to 
my own country, and there to pay them, as the dearest and 
nearest of my relations, the attentions they are worthy 
of. Graciously order their presence, that I may take them 
home." 

" Hear, hear, hear," resounded from the lips of the robbers, 
and the woman was summoned before the court, and ordered 
with her children to follow her alleged stepson. She, how- 
ever, hung down her head in confusion, and finally rejected 
the merchant's proposals. The king, too, looked confused and 
grieved at the prospect of losing his lion's share of the spoil 
made through her, but through fear of the robbers he was 
forced to restore to the merchant all that he had been robbed 
of in consequence of the woman's charge against him. 

Having cleared himself so far, the merchant, with the 
king's permission, left the court, in company with his friends, 
the robbers. With the assistance of these he found the 
barber's house. The man was called out, and the robbers 
belaboured him so well that he fell down at their feet and 
cried for mercy. Thereupon the merchant said, " Well, cheat 
of a barber, you have robbed me on the ground that I did not 
give you enough. Now receive enough from me, and sign an 
acknowledgment to that effect." Saying this, he rubbed some 
nettles on the barber's body, and the stinging pain was so 
great that the swindler cried out, " B21S, bus." ^ Instantly 
paper, pen, and ink were produced, and the barber was only 

1 Enough, enough. 



58 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

too glad to escape by writing down these very words, with his 
signature below. 

The merchant with his friends then returned to the court, 
handed over the paper to the king as an acknowledgment of 
the barber's satisfaction, and the king restored to the merchant 
the ship he had lost on the cheat's complaint. 

There remained thus only one ship to be recovered, and 
one of the robbers, leaving the court, went in search of the 
one-eyed rascal. The search was successful, and the rogue 
was brought before the king, whereupon our hero thus pressed 
his suit, " O Impersonation of justice ! the man before you 
had one of my ships with my possessions in it decreed to him 
by this august court on the ground that I was unwilling to 
give him back the eye he had pawned to my father, even on 
receiving the money advanced on it. Now, sire, I beg with 
all humility to say that I was not in the least unwilling to let 
him have his property on the receipt of my money but only 
unprepared to do so because I had not the eye then with me. 
I was just going to explain this to him, when he grew mad 
with fury and sought your majesty's presence. Now I admit 
his claim, and I will return him the eye as soon as I can find 
it, on my return home, among the many eyes that were 
pawned to my father, and are carefully preserved in our family 
treasury. All that I want is a little time, and the other eye 
of this man, for without it, it will be impossible for me to find 
its fellow. Order it then to be plucked out, and made over to 
me, and for the faithful performance of my promise, I will leave 
with him that ship of mine which is already in his possession." 

The speech being ended, the claimant of the eye looked 
glum and vacant and finally ran out of the court, hooted and 
pelted with stones by the gang of robbers. The court then 
ordered the merchant to take possession of his fourth ship. 
This was soon done, and he who had been the victim of so 
many chicaneries left the wicked country, awarding one of his 
ships to the head robber in grateful acknowledgment of his 
matchless and disinterested services. 



XI 

THE MAN WHO WAS ENRICHED BY 
ACCIDENT 

THERE once lived a Brahmin and his wife, who were 
very poor, wanting even the bare necessaries of life. 
The husband was a great dolt, and his wife possessed 
as little sense as he. One day she spoke to her 
husband thus, " O lord of my life ! I have heard that our 
king is very fond of poetry, and that he rewards every Brahmin 
who approaches him with a clever sloka} Why don't you see 
him with one of your own compositions ? " 

The Brahmin replied, " Darling, am I fit to approach the 
court in my dirty clothes, and this dirty poitd}" ^ The Brahmini 
thereupon washed a suit of clothes for him and prepared a new 
poitd also, and the next day her husband started for the king's 
presence, though the sloka was not yet ready. He thought 
that he would compose it on the way, and thus went along 
ruminating. He racked his brains, composed some lines, and 
then finding them not to his satisfaction, rejected them 
altogether. A thousand attempts like this were made, but 
nothing came of them. When he was hesitating whether he 
should proceed forward or return, he accidently saw something 
that supplied him, as he thought, with the materials for a good 
sloka. What he saw was a bull rubbing its hoofs on a stone 
moistened by the water of a fountain, and he at once uttered 
the two following nonsensical lines : 

" Khiir gharsan, khiir gharsan chikiv chikir pdni 
Tomdr inoner kathd dmi sab jdni" 

^ Verse. 2 The sacred thread round a Brahmin's neck. 



6o BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

Great was his joy at what he considered to be the inspira- 
tion of Saraswati^ and with a bold heart he made his appear- 
ance in court, thus addressing the king, "O blessed of the 
goddess Saraswati, I have a sloka for your hearing, and I 
crave permission to repeat it." Permission being granted, 
the two lines were repeated. The whole court burst into 
laughter, even the gravest there failing to maintain his gravity. 
But the king, with greater control over his feelings, soon put 
a check to this risibility, and with seeming approval dismissed 
the Brahmin with a handsome sum of money, not as a reward 
for his poetic genius, but as a gift in consideration of his 
poverty. 

Inflated with pride at his achievement, the Brahmin went 
home, and finding his wife waiting for him in anxious ex- 
pedition, lavished a thousand caresses on her as his good 
angel. They then passed the day in conversation as to the 
best way in which the money in their hands should be utilized, 
and the next morning the Brahmin went to the bazaar and 
returned with the necessary articles of consumption. 

A few days after the Brahmin's visit to the king, affairs in 
the court took a very unpleasant turn. The heir-apparent, in 
conjunction with his friends, formed a plan to kill the king. 
None of the conspirators, however, could call up sufficient 
courage to do the monstrous act openly. Some suggested 
that the king should be quietly assassinated at night when 
passing into the zenana, others that he should be removed by 
poison. But neither of these plans was deemed sufficiently 
practical, for on his way into the inner apartments the king 
had always a guard with him, while the food that he took was 
always tested beforehand by a chemical examiner. At length 
it was proposed by the prince that the family barber should be 
bribed to commit the murder while shaving his Majesty ; for 
in that case the act would be considered an accident, and no 
suspicion would fall on any one. 

Next day the barber was called in, and after a good deal of 

^ The goddess of learning. 



THE MAN ENRICHED BY ACCIDENT 6i 

opposition, he succumbed to the temptation in consideration 
of the immense sum put into his hands as earnest money, and 
when next it was his duty to shave the king, he approached 
his royal master determined to carry out the wicked plan. 

A human life was going to be terminated by a swift stroke 
inflicted by the razor, and so it was necessary to sharpen it 
with peculiar attention. The barber, on standing in front of 
the king, put a few drops of water to his razor and began 
rubbing it against the hone, as barbers invariably do before 
shaving. The act reminded the king of the Brahmin's sloka, 
and he said, " You see, barber, that what the Brahmin said 
the other day may be fitly said by me also on the present 
occasion. By khi'tr he meant hoof, but it means razor as well. 
So now there is Khiir gharsan, khiir gharsau with chikir 
chikir pdni. I know all the intention with which it is being 
done, so the other line, Tomdr iiioner kathddiiii sab jani, may 
be added as well." 

The barber was beside himself with fear at what he heard. 
He thought that the Brahmin's sloka was an invention of the 
king's, and that he had used these words to intimate that he 
knew his thoughts at the moment. The poor man, who was 
not naturally dead to better feelings but had been gained over 
by a very large sum of money, quaked in every limb, and 
ultimately regaining the power of speech, implored his master's 
pardon in piteous terms. The king was thunderstruck at what 
he saw and heard, and at length asked the barber the reason 
of his being thus moved. Thereupon the man, with tears 
rolling down his cheeks, made a clean breast of everything, 
and the conspiracy being thus found out, all the persons 
concerned in it were adequately punished. 

The Brahmin, whose sloka had thus accidently been the 
cause of saving the king's life, was invited to the court, and 
granted a jagir for himself and his heirs to enjoy for ever. 



XII 
STRANGE FRIENDS IN TIME OF NEED 



T 



"^HERE was once an old woman, a widow, in very 
straitened circumstances. She maintained herself 
by husking rice for other people, and getting 
particles of kliud^ as reward. But poor as she was, 
she was not free from being molested by a thief. Frequently 
he visited her house and purloined the commonest things he 
could get, until at length the poor woman determined to 
seek the protection of the king of her country. With this 
purpose she was on her way to the palace, when a lump of 
clay, seeing her approach, said, "Where are you off to, old 
woman ? " She replied that she was going to the king to ask 
for a guard to protect her from a certain thief. The lump of 
clay said, " Take me to your house, and leave me at the 
threshold. I will be your guard." 

The woman did as she was told, but she once again set 
out towards the palace, not fully depending on the assurances 
of the lump of clay. On the road she found an open razor. 
It asked her the same question as the mass of clay had done, 
and, according to the instructions of the razor, the woman 
placed it close to her first sentinel, in the passage leading into 
her room. Still, however, doubting the efficiency of her two 
self-constituted guards, she again resumed her journey. A 
third time she found a friend on the way, a shmgi fish, noted 
for the sharp appendages below its head, and it advised her 
to put it on the steps leading into her room, in a hdndV~ full 
of water. When she was returning home with this new 
recruit, she met a bomb and a frog, and desiring to add 
these to the number of her protectors, she carried them also 
to her house, and according to their instructions, placed the 

1 Ground rice. ? Earthenware pot. 



STRANGE FRIENDS IN TIME OF NEED 63 

bomb by the side of her oven, in which the fire had not yet 
been extinguished, and the frog beside her bed. 

All her fears now vanished, and with a sense of security 
she ate her sorry meal, sought her bed and fell asleep. The 
thief, not knowing the preparations against him, made an 
attempt to enter the woman's house, and trod on the lump of 
clay at the threshold. Not knowing what it might be that he 
had trodden on, he hastened to wipe it off on a patch of grass 
close by ; and immediately the sharp razor inflicted a deep 
incision on his foot. The wound bled severely, and beside 
himself with pain, the thief hurried to the hdiidi near by, 
and plunged his foot into the water it contained. The slimgi 
fish was at once on the alert, and pierced the wound with the 
spikes below its head, causing the wound to throb so painfully 
that the thief, to relieve it, placed his foot near the oven to 
warm it at the fire. This caused the bomb to roll into the 
fire and burst with a loud explosion. Several parts of the 
thief's body were badly burnt, and the thief in great pain ran 
from one end of the room to the other. The report awoke the 
woman, and she heard the frog saying, " O biirhi otna choi'er 
ndchan ddkhnay ^ 

The thief was obliged to lie down for hours, quite helpless. 
The old woman, being of a kindly disposition, carefully 
tended his wound, thus heaping coals of fire on his head. So 
much was he affected by this that henceforth he became an 
honest man, and out of his small earnings fed and clothed the 
old woman till the end of her life. A report of this strange 
occurrence at her house was in time carried to the ears of 
the king, and not only did he bestow a pension upon her, but 
he also rewarded her helpers in the fittest way possible. The 
lump of clay had a shrub of roses planted on it, the razor 
every morning was used to shave the royal chin, the fish and 
the frog sported in a cistern in the palace, and, as the bomb 
had suffered martyrdom in the old woman's service, its 
remains were enshrined with honour. 

* Get up, old woman, and see the thiefs dance. 



I 



XIII 
LAKSHMI'S GIFT 

N a certain village in Bengal there lived a poor Brahmin 
widow and her son, without any ostensible means of 
subsistence. The young Brahmin was only a boy, 
and not old enough to obtain work. Fasting became 
habitual to both mother and son, begging being a profession 
that fails in course of time. One day, the Brahmini, no longer 
able to bear the pangs of hunger and the sight of her son's 
sad face, left home to drown herself in an adjacent river. 
When she had gone about half the distance, a dog asleep on 
the side of the road rose up at the sound of her steps, and 
shook a cowrie from its head in front of her. Out of curiosity, 
she took it up and proceeded on her sad journey. But she 
was not destined to put an end to her life, for a fierce tiger 
suddenly appeared in front of her, and frightened her so that 
she stepped backwards. He could, if he had liked, have 
made a meal of her, but he did not seem intent on so doing. 
He acted rather as a father frightening away his child from 
running into danger, and the more the Brahmini moved 
backwards towards her house, the closer was she followed by 
her new friend, until she quite forgot her intention of drown- 
ing herself and reached her own home again, trembling in 
every limb. 

The tiger was indeed her friend, for he was no other than 
ATandi^ whom Annapiu'iia'^ had borroA\ed of her husband, 
and sent to befriend the poor woman by first saving her life, 

1 Shiva's favourite. 

^ The goddess who provides men with food. 



LAKSHMI'S GIFT 65 

and then supplying her and her son with food enough for the 
day. The tiger's mission then took him to the bazaar, 
whence he got all the necessary articles of consumption, and, 
lest his entrance into the Brahmini's house should throw her 
again into terror, he considerately cast them over the wall into 
the courtyard. 

As it was late in the day, neither the Brahmini nor her son 
ate any substantial food before sunset. They waited for the 
evening to set in, and then an excellent meal was prepared 
such as they had never before had. They ate heartily, and 
after conversing on the momentous topics of the day, they 
sought their beds. The mother, when about to lie down, 
found the shell of the cowrie tied in one corner of her sarhi, 
and after showing it to her son, and telling him how she had 
obtained it, placed it under her pillow. Sleep then seized 
their eyelids, and the night passed in sweet oblivion of their 
troubles. 

Next morning, the Brahmini, on leaving her bed and 
removing the pillow, found the cowrie changed into a mdnik} 
Surprised and delighted, she took it up, and going to the 
richest jeweller in the city close to her house, pawned the gem 
for one-tenth of its value, and returned home with all possible 
speed. She communicated the good news to her son, who fell 
into an ecstasy on seeing the immense sum of money heaped 
on the floor. They could now afford to fare sumptuously, and 
after breakfast they commenced talking of their changed 
condition and prospects, when suddenly an old woman 
approached them and told them they were wanted by an 
old Brahmin living a little way from their house, and that it 
would be to their advantage if they went to see him. The 
mother and her son followed the woman, and were taken 
into a very rich mansion, grandly furnished, and with many 
servants in attendance. The mother was introduced to the 
old Brahmin, who showed her all the apartments, and told 

> A manik is a fabulous gem of immense value supposed to lie in the head of a snake. 
It is reputed to be worth the wealth of seven kings put together. 

F 



66 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

her that the house with everything in it was her property. 
She looked amazed and confounded, and was about to break 
forth into exclamations of joy and gratitude, when the old 
Brahmin, and the woman who called on her, suddenly became 
invisible. On the place where they had stood were two pillars 
of light, and two distinct voices were heard one after the other. 
The first was the voice of the woman, speaking thus, " My 
daughter, unable to bear the sight of your woes, I, Lakshmi, 
sent one of my servants in the shape of a dog with the cowrie, 
which was in reality a manik, and as the money you got on 
pawning it must be securely kept, I have with my husband, 
Ndrdyan, had this place built for you by Vish'vakarina, our 
architect. Live here with your son, in wealth, luxury and 
peace. All I ask of you in return is to worship me yourself 
and persuade others to do so too." 

Narayan said, " You, good woman, are the favourite of my 
wife. I shall ever remain with you, though invisible. Remove 
your wealth here and with the money which you will find now 
in the east room redeem the manik, and keep it always with you." 

The god and goddess having taken their departure, the 
Brahmini did as she had been told by Narayan. What a 
contrast there was between her present and her former 
position ! She who but the day before was a famished 
beggar was now the mistress of a place filled with treasure 
and servants waiting to do her bidding. After the lapse of a 
few years, she secured a wife for her son, not from among 
princesses or daughters of the rich, since these high-born 
ladies, she thought, would be too haughty and overbearing 
to suit her. She selected her daughter-in-law from amongst 
the middle classes, and the choice for a time seemed wise and 
the marriage promised to prove a happy one. 

The girl's head, however, was soon turned by the wealth 
in the house. She became very luxurious and prodigal, and 
her mother-in-law at last was forced to protest against her 
extravagance, saying, " O Bouina^ do not act like this, for my 

^ Daughter-in-law. 



LAKSHMI'S GIFT 67 

house and everything I possess have been obtained from a 
cowrie." On being" spoken to in these strange terms, she 
asked her husband what his mother's remark meant, and he 
frankly acknowledged that his mother's having obtained the 
cowrie from a dog had been the foundation of their fortune. 
The wretched daughter-in-law, to turn the tables upon her 
mother-in-law, when the latter asked her again next morning 
to be more considerate, replied, " Ah, Thakritn^ I know at 
what cost you have got all these fine possessions. Your 
wealth is the result of your friendship with a dog." 

Cut to the heart and thunderstruck, the mother-in-law 
sought her room, and knowing that the revelation had been 
made by her son, and resolving to remain no longer with him 
or his wife, she instantly left home in disgust, leaving every- 
thing behind her, including the manik. She walked on at 
random, passing city after city, town after town, village after 
village, until at mid-day, under the scorching rays of the 
summer sun, she reached the foot of a banyan tree, which 
afforded a refreshing shelter to wayfarers. For some time she 
sat under the shadow of it, but by the time she was ready to 
resume her journey, she had become very thirsty. Her throat 
seemed parched, and to slake her thirst she approached a 
neighbouring rill. To her amazement, just as she took a little 
water in her hands and raised it to her lips, the manik she 
had left behind dropped down from between her clasped 
palms and a voice came from overhead saying, "Daughter, I 
will not leave you at any time. Go to the nearest king rich 
enough to buy the gem, and spend the proceeds on good 
works." 

As the words ceased the Brahmini saw rising from the 
ground a mansion as large and magnificent as the one she 
had left, with numerous servants waiting to minister to her 
wants. A rich repast was ready prepared, but she could not 
fully enjoy it, owing to the heaviness of her mind caused 

' An epithet applied to all women as a term of respect, especially to one's mother- 
in-law. 



68 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

by the thought of her separation from her son. The next day- 
she sold the manik, as Narayan had directed, for the Being 
who had spoken to her was no other than the god himself. 
She then proceeded to worship Lakshmi. Afterwards, she 
devoted herself to works of charity. She built innumerable 
houses near her own mansion, and had them filled with suit- 
able people invited from every quarter. The king became her 
friend, and on his suggestion she did numberless acts of 
public usefulness, such as the establishment of schools, 
hospitals, houses for the poor, great marts for trade, and other 
things of the same kind. The excavation of large tanks was 
one of her favourite projects, to carry out which she had to 
employ a great army of labourers, whom she paid daily in 
cowries. 

Leaving her to use her wealth in this laudable manner, let 
us for a moment direct the reader's attention to what was 
going on in the house she had left. For some time after his 
mother's departure, her son, with his wife, lived as comfortably 
as before. But their happiness was of short duration. The 
house soon began to look gloomy and deserted, their money 
seemed to evaporate, and the servants, one by one, left the 
house. Finally a gang of incendiaries set fire to it one night, 
and plundered it wholesale. On the following morning the 
Brahmini's son, having no means of subsistence, took his wife 
to his father-in-law's and left her there while he went in search 
of work. But what work could he do ? Ignorant of letters, he 
could aspire to no work except manual labour and that of the 
meanest kind. But even here the stars seemed to be against 
him, for everywhere he applied, he was rudely driven away. 
At length, emaciated and in great misery, he chanced on the 
place where his mother lived, and hired himself as a day 
labourer, not knowing in whose service he was employed. 

The mother who had expected the ruin of her son, and like 
the father in the parable of the prodigal son, anxiously looked 
forward to his return to her, used every morning personally to 
watch strangers who sought service at the tanks from one of the 



LAKSHMI'S GIFT 69 

windows of the palace, and one morning she was delighted to 
see that her son was among the applicants. She at once 
called in the overseer, and ordered him to keep an eye on all 
the newcomers, not letting him know that her son was among 
them. The work went on as usual, until it was time for the 
workers to bathe and eat. Meals and also dwelling huts were 
prepared at the cost of the estate, and when the young Brahmin 
was going to the hut pointed out to him as his own, his 
mother sent a maidservant to lead him into the inner apart- 
ments of the mansion. The order was obeyed, and the man 
being brought in, a servant was ordered to wash the stranger's 
feet, anoint his body, supply him with a bath, and dress him 
in new clothes. This procedure produced great terror in the 
object of these attentions. He had heard it said that if suffi- 
cient water did not soon come up when a tank was being dug, 
human sacrifices were sometimes offered to Bari'in} His 
mind was thus filled with apprehension that he was intended 
as the victim for sacrifice. To crown his uneasiness he was 
led before the mistress of the mansion and made to sit down 
before a sumptuous meal, which he imagined must be the im- 
mediate precursor of his death. He could hardly take a 
mouthful without watering it with his tears ; until at last his 
mother, no longer able to witness her son's distress, ran up to 
him and, making herself known to him, embraced him with 
great joy. The son clasped his mother's feet, and begged her 
pardon, which, however, had already been tacitly granted. 
The Brahmini then enquired after her daughter-in-law, and 
learning that she was living with her father in wretched 
circumstances, she sent for her. She came, a changed woman 
indeed, and always afterwards remained submissive. Thus 
the favourite of Lakshmi passed her days in uninterrupted 
happiness, till it was time for her to be taken into the joys of 
Baikuntha dhdni, the heavenly abode of Lakshmi and 
Narayan. 

1 The god of water. 



XIV 
THE REDEEMING POWER OF THE GANGES 

THE Ganges is believed by Hindus to be a mani- 
festation of Bhagabati, who came down to earth in 
the form of a river for the sole purpose of redeem- 
ing men from their sins, so that the mere touch of 
her waters buys forgiveness for even the foulest of crimes. 
Bhabaghuray records two illustrations of this, which we give 
here. 

There was once a Brahmin, named Lochan,' who was a 
ship's sircar, or supplier of orders to foreign ships lying in the 
Ganges. On one occasion he had to go on board a vessel 
which was on the point of starting for England, for the 
purpose of receiving his dues. It took some time for the 
accounts to be squared and settled, and when the Brahmin 
was counting the columns of rupees, annas, and pies, the ship, 
unknown to him, unfurled its sails and began to proceed on 
its journey. By the time the transaction between the Captain 
and Lochan came to an end, she was off Saugur Island. 
When the Brahmin, to his great discomfiture, perceived this, he 
implored the Captain to land him. The Captain at first 
represented to him the dangers to which he might be exposed 
in being cast ashore alone in the jungle just when night was 
falling, but he was at length persuaded by Lochan's impor- 
tunities to accede to his wishes. A jolly-boat was lowered, 
and Lochan was landed on the shore many miles away from 
the haunts of his fellow creatures. 

As night was rapidly approaching, the Brahmin walked 

1 The eye. 



REDEEMING POWER OF THE GANGES 71 

away from the seashore in search of shelter. But there was 
none to be found. On he trudged, amidst the howls of tigers, 
the grunts of wild boars, and the hissing of snakes, that 
frequent the Sunderans, until he reached a beautiful stretch of 
grass surrounded on all sides by palmyra trees. Finding the 
place not so desolate and gloomy as the rest of the jungle, he 
sat down in one corner of it, giving up the hope of finding a 
better protection for the night. His wearied limbs found rest, 
and at last he fell into a doze, from which he was roused by 
the noise of sweeping brooms. On opening his eyes, he found 
a number of sweepers brushing the grass lawn. These were 
followed by Bhistis, busy with their work of laying the dust. 
Behind them came others, who after spreading a very large 
piece of gaudy carpet, put a number of bolsters on it, and com- 
pleted their work by placing all round it beautiful white 
candles that burned brightly against the approaching darkness, 
with a throne at one end of the carpet. The preparations 
being complete, there marched on to the lawn a procession of 
richly dressed beings who were apparently human, and he who 
led the procession walked up to the throne and sat down upon 
it, while the others took their seats at a respectful distance, the 
bolsters supporting only those of highest rank. 

One dressed like a Magistrate's Peshkar ' then approached 
the occupier of the throne, and read the contents of a scroll of 
paper, the meaning of which was quite unintelligible to 
Lochan, although he sat close to the throne itself. Some 
discussion followed, which ended with certain orders being 
given by the chief. At length, business done, the chief 
ordered tobacco to be prepared for him to smoke, and a gold 
hubble-bubble was immediately placed before him. He at 
once began smoking, and the delicious smell of the tobacco 
filled the air. Lochan was a confirmed smoker, and as he 
had not had a smoke for many hours, greatly desired to have 
a pull at the kalkay even if the pipe should not be given him. 

^ A Peshkar is a court officer, who lays before a Judge or Magistrate the cases to be 
decided on a particular day, and gives him the purport of the plaints. 



72 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

He resisted the temptation for some time, but when quite 
unable to do so any longer, he crept up to the feet of the chief, 
and most piteously begged him for the kalkay. The chief 
looked at him, and to his surprise recognizing him at once, said, 
" Ah ! what is it, Lochan?" Lochan, growing bolder, looked 
up at his questioner, and said, " Can it be Piskemohashoy} "' 
The two men thus recognizing each other, the smoking pipe 
was handed over to Lochan, who, in obedience to etiquette 
that no one should smoke in the presence of one superior to 
himself, drew aside behind a palmyra tree and smoked to 
his heart's content. 

Lochan then returned to his uncle's side and they began 
to converse. 

" Well, Lochan," said Pishemohashoy, " what has brought 
you here ? And how are you getting on ? Have you got any 
family ? I have neither seen nor heard of you for a long 
time. And there is good reason for it." 

Lochan in reply informed his uncle how he had come 
there, and gave him all the particulars asked. He then asked 
his uncle why he was on the solitary seashore at that dark 
hour, apparently presiding over a court of justice, Lochan 
asked also why Pishemohashoy had for some years ceased all 
communication with his devoted nephew. To this the uncle 
replied, "Baba Lochan, hear my history from the time I left 
you, down to the present. You know that I was with the 
British army under Clive, and worked in the Commissariat, 
though it pleased me greatly to be present on the battlefield 
as often as I could. I was an interested spectator at the 
battle of Plassey, and just when Meer Jaffer with his men was 
about to leave the ranks of the Nawab for those of the English, 
a Mohamedan soldier on horseback rode up to the place where 
I was standing, and severed my head from my body. My 
body lay on the battlefield unnoticed and soon became food 
for dogs and jackals. My skull, however, remained intact, 
till a yogi took it to his hut in the forest, and made a cup out 

' The worshipful husband of my father's sister. 



REDEEMING POWER OF THE GANGES 73 

of it. During the day it remains unused, but at night the 
ascetic fills it with Ganga water for his ablutions. An 
accidental death has turned me into an evil spirit, and during 
the day I have to live in the torments of hell, but during the 
night I enjoy the bliss of heaven, for then my skull contains 
the holy water. What you have seen is my nightly court, 
where, empowered by Yama, I administer Justice to those 
departed spirits who have been wronged by their fellow 
spirits. Now, my dear Lochan, do one thing for me and I 
will make you the master of immense wealth. Visit the 
ascetic's abode, and somehow or other take my skull thence 
and throw it into the Ganges. Then this supremacy that you 
now see me enjoying will be perpetual, and I shall never lose 
the joys of heaven." 

Lochan gladly agreed to his uncle's request, and was that 
very night borne by two spirits in human shape to the hut of 
the ascetic. Here Lochan carried out his uncle's orders and 
was thence taken to the cave of a mountain near Madras. 
The cave was filled with gold mohurs, and very costly gems, 
which the spirits placed in baskets, and lifted up in their 
hands. They then told Lochan to shut his eyes, and in a 
trice he was carried to his home in the Burdwan District. 
There he and his family lived as happily as possible, his chief 
delight being to send out bands of men chanting mother 
Ganga's praises. 

The scene of the second incident illustrating the saving 
and sanctifying power of the river Ganges is said to have 
happened in the recesses of a forest in southern Bengal, the 
chief actors being certain evil spirits of dead women, known as 
Sliankchoornis. The narrator of the incident says that on a 
day of pilgrimage to Ganga Sagar ^ a man was wending his 
way along the outskirts of a particular forest, when his ears 
caught sounds of rejoicing in the distance. There were 
shouts, huzzas, the sounds of conch-shells, and the far resound- 
ing cries of women. The traveller passed by, and reached the 

1 The place where the Ganges meets the Bay of Bengal. 



74 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

place of pilgrimage. The next day, however, when returning 
by the side of the same forest, he heard coming from the same 
spot cries of w^eeping and lamentation. In order to see who 
the people in that solitary place could be, and what might be 
the cause of this change in their lot within so short a time, he 
walked into the forest, and saw a number of women rolling 
on the ground in agony. Among them was a girl, who gave 
vent to her grief in greater abandonment than all the rest. 
The traveller waited for a short time, and when the first 
paroxysm of grief had passed he approached and asked the 
meaning of what he saw. 

One of the mourners in a nasal tone, the tone peculiar to 
ghosts, said, " O Mahashoy, hear our misfortune. That girl 
lying there in mute despondency is our cousin, and we expected 
her to have been married to a youth who a few hours since 
has been gored to death by a bull. As a death of this 
kind makes men ghosts,^ we thought this handsome youth 
would be our cousin's husband, and we sent a friend to entice 
him into our midst. When you passed this way yesterday, 
we were rejoicing in anticipation of the wedding. We waited 
and waited till midnight for the bridegroom, but neither he 
nor our friend turned up. At length the friend whom we had 
sent returned, and from him we have heard that the intended 
bridegroom has not become a ghost, but a spirit in heaven. 
So all our rejoicings have turned into lamentations of intense 
grief. We asked our messenger the cause of his delay and he 
said that he had waited long to see if he could not get 
possession of the dead man's person. The issue depended on 
a struggle between the messengers of Shiva and Yama. The 
messengers of the former wanted to take the man to Kailash, 
while those of the latter desired to thrust him into the society 
of ghosts. At length Shiva's angels were victorious, and 
they carried the young man to the peaceful abode of their 
master, and consequently our messenger had to come away 
disappointed." 

1 Death by accident is supposed to bring suffering in the next world, and to cause 
the dead to frequent the earth as ghosts. 



REDEEMING POWER OF THE GANGES 75 

The traveller was amazed and asked the Sliankchoorni 
if she had heard from her friend the cause which had led to 
the frustration of their hopes. She replied, "The man him- 
self felt certain of becoming a ghost, if nothing intervened to 
alter his fate, for an accidental death implies damnation. 
There was one circumstance, however, in the case which 
turned the scale in the young man's favour ; and that was 
that the bull which gored him had a little mud of the Ganges 
sticking to his horns, and the touch of this mud opened the 
young man's way to Kailash." 

The traveller left the scene in great wonder, and devoted 
his life to the worship of the Ganges. He organized a band 
of his village-men to sing the praises of the river everywhere 
in lower Bengal, and Ganga Sagar became the revered spot 
of their annual pilgrimage. 



PART II 



MADHUMALA, THE WREATH OF 
SWEETNESS 

THERE was once a king who had vast possessions. 
Everything that the world could give was his, save 
one thing only. He was childless, and the fact that 
he had no son was taken as a sign of the displeasure 
of the gods. So in spite of his rank and prestige, he was 
looked down upon as an antkoorha} 

One day, at dawn, the sweeper was at work in the palace 
in the very apartment next to that in which the king slept. 
The latter, roused by the noise, came out of his room and saw 
the sweeper, who, to avoid seeing a childless man's face at the 
beginning of a new day, covered his eyes ' with his hands. 
The king observed this, and was astonished to find that he 
was an object of aversion even to a sweeper. From that time 
he became very sad and morose, and a smile was seldom seen 
on his face. Heaven, however, at last took pity on him. 
One day Bidhdtdpuyush^ disguised as a religious mendicant, 
with a bright lamp of gold in his hand, visited him, and 
speaking words of consolation said, " O king, do not despair. 
Bright days are yet to come. Take this lamp, and with it go 
to that tank of yours which is called the tank of life. You 

' A childless man. 

2 Hindus of the old school believe that to see the face of one who is in any way 
unfortunate at the conamencement of a new day augurs evil. 

3 A Hindu god believed to predestine at a man's birth everything that will happen to 
him in life. The events are said to be faithfully written on his forehead, on the sixth 
night after the child's birth. 



78 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

will find there a tree of silver with fruit of gold. Two of 
these golden fruits you must bring down with an arrow, 
with your eyes towards the ground, and your breath sus- 
pended." The king, overjoyed at this revelation, did as 
ordered, with the exception that he forgot, when shooting the 
arrow, to hold his breath. This omission spoilt everything. 
The fruit did not fall from the tree, and the king fell senseless 
on the ground. Bidhatapurush, the mendicant, who was 
standing by, revived him, and said, "O king, rise up and 
with eyes shut, stretch forth your palms, and a bird of gold 
will descend on one of them. Take the bird home and 
throwing away its wings and claws, have seven different 
kinds of curry made of it. Eat some of each of the seven 
and you will have a son godlike in appearance and endowed 
with many accomplishments. But under the earth you must 
build a mansion of stone, and here the queen, having passed 
the days of her confinement, must remain with the prince and 
his nurse for twelve years, secluded from the world." 

The king carried out the instructions to the letter. The 
bird was eaten, the mansion of stone built, and the queen 
removed there to await the birth of the long-desired son. In 
due time the son was born, and named Madankumar, the 
Cupid-like youth. Rapidly he grew up both in mind and body. 
He had nearly completed the twelve years of seclusion 
prescribed when one day he expressed a desire to see the 
world outside ; the sun, the moon, the stars, and all the other 
wonderful phenomena of nature of which he had read and 
heard from his nurse. His mother, remembering Bidhata- 
piirush's injunctions, refused compliance, but the boy's 
persistence at last prevailed. The consent of his father, 
however, had to be obtained, for there were still three days 
wanting for the completion of the twelve years. The father, 
unwilling to refuse his son's request, yet doubtful of the 
consequences, called and consulted a conclave of astrologers 
and other men of lore. They finally decided that the short 
period of only three days was not worth considering, and 



MADHUMALA 79 

accordingly the queen and her son were brought with great 
state to the palace. Thus for the sake of three days was 
Bidhatapurush's command violated. 

Madankumar was very fond of sports, and one day when 
quite a young man he asked his father to let him join in a 
hunting expedition. Reluctant as his parents were, the 
importunity of the youth carried the day, and he set out with 
a large number of attendants, the prime minister's son being 
the chief among them. This young man was especially 
commissioned by the king to look after his son. For the 
whole day the chase continued without success, and Madan 
being loth to go home empty-handed proposed to have tents 
pitched in the woods and pass the night there. Tired out 
with the chase, he was soon asleep. Now it happened that 
about midnight two payees^ Kala Paree and Nidra Paree 
by name, who were flying to visit the dancing hall of Indra 
the king of the Hindu gods, looked down and saw Madan as 
he lay asleep in his tent and, entranced with his handsome 
person, they halted in their flight. 

" Sister," said Kala Paree, " look downwards. There is one 
tent there full of lustre. I see a thousand moons together, 
the brightest gems in the world gathered and heaped up there. 
Or it may be that one of the gods is reposing in the company 
of men." 

" It is none of these," replied her sister, " it is Madan, the 
son of famous king Dandadhar." 

"We must find a wife worthy of him," said Kala Paree. 
" Can you think of one ? " 

"Surely Madhumala alone is a fit bride for such a man," 
Nidra Paree declared. 

" Then, sister " said Kala Paree, " let us take up the bed 
on which the prince lies, and carry him to his bride." 

Nidra Paree did as her sister wished, and Madan's bed 
was in the twinkling of an eye carried to the regions beneath 
the sea and placed in Madhumala's room beside her couch. 

■" Fairies. 



8o BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

The parees then roused them from sleep, and standing aside 
in the shadow watched to see what would happen. Great 
was the amazement of the prince and the princess to be thus 
miraculously brought together, and shyly at first they began 
to converse, Madan giving an account of himself, and Mad- 
humala informing him who she was. The conversation soon 
became of an intimate nature and with both it was a case of 
love at first sight. Both made promises of everlasting fidelity 
and exchanged rings as tokens of their plighted troth. But 
their enjoyment was of short duration : the parees cast an 
irresistible spell on them, and they fell fast asleep, leaving the 
match-makers free to dispose of them as they willed. During 
the small hours of the morning they removed the prince to 
his camp, not on his own couch, but on that of the princess. 
This expedient was resorted to in order to leave a tangible 
token of the happy meeting. 

When the prince awoke in the morning the first words he 
uttered were, "O Madhumala, where art thou?" His com- 
panions were naturally astounded, and the prime minister's 
son, hearing from the prince of his adventures during the 
night, at once declared that it must have been nothing but a 
dream. The prince, however, replied, " Friend, you call my 
experience of the past night a dream, but could a man exchange 
his ring with another's in a dream ? See also this couch. Is 
it the one on which I fell asleep last evening ? " The argument, ' 
though convincing enough, had no force with the minister's 
son, who at once made arrangements for the breaking up of 
the encampment and the instant return of the party to the 
palace. The prince reluctantly consented, but the state of his 
mind was unchanged. After his return home he could speak 
of nothing but this adventure until at last his distracted 
parents feared that his mind was affected and that he was 
under a spell. In vain they tried to divert his mind from the 
subject. The young man persisted in his assertions, and 
ultimately implored them to allow him to set out in search of 
Madhumala, to whom he had plighted his troth in the dream. 




KALA PAREE AND NIDRA PAREE 



MADHUMALA 8r 

It came as a terrible blow to them to realize that their darling, 
who had never left their side, save for that one day's hunting, 
was about to leave them, it might be for ever. They attributed 
all this to the anger of the gods, which they had brought upon 
themselves by letting him leave the subterranean house three 
days earlier than they had been commanded, and falling on 
his neck they implored him with torrents of tears to give up 
the enterprise, which in their opinion was no better than a 
wild-goose chase. But nothing could divert him from his 
purpose ; and the king, to make the best of a bad case, 
prepared for him a ship with a great company of followers. 
On an auspicious day he put the dust of his parents' feet upon 
his head, and started on the voyage to the seas, under which 
he believed his sweetheart dwelt. 

Many days and nights, many months even, passed by 
without success attending the prince's quest, till at length, 
overtaken by a violent storm, they were all drowned save 
the prince, who after three days was washed by the waves on 
to the beach quite insensible. Some goat-herds found him 
and resuscitated him. Upon being asked who he was, and 
with what object he had set out upon the seas, the prince 
told them everything, not omitting to mention with particular 
emphasis the name Madhumala. 

The mention of this name acted like a charm upon them, 
and with joy they cried out — "Ah, this is he for whom our 
king's daughter, Champakala, has been waiting ; for, from 
books of astrology and the god Shiva to whom she daily 
prays to bring her husband to her, she has learnt that one 
who is out seeking for Madhumala's abode shall be her 
lord." Saying this, they took Madan to their king, who, 
aware of the revelation made to his daughter, at once 
introduced him to her. She asked her father to marry her to 
the youth, who was so obviously destined to be her husband ; 
and the nuptials were celebrated that very day with great 
pomp. When the couple retired to the bridal chamber, 
Champakala told her husband that she knew of his longing 

G 



82 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

for Madhumala, and that though she herself was not aware 
of her whereabouts, the information could be obtained 
from a princess named Panchakala, dwelling far off in 
a region where seven rivers met. She then made the 
prince promise her that, on his successful return, he would 
take her to his father's kingdom and acknowledge her as 
his wife. 

The next morning, Champakala according to her promise 
allowed her husband to depart. After a long and tedious 
journey of many days he reached the outskirts of the kingdom 
of Panchakala's father. There being met and detained by a 
sepoy of the king's, he said, "O brother, detain me not. I 
have to find out Madhumala, my beloved." The sepoy replied, 
" Now at last my duty is done. I have been posted here to 
lead to the king one who should in any way allude to 
Madhumala. You, sir, have uttered the name and must 
now follow me." Saying this, he had a Chatturdola ^ brought, 
and took the prince to the palace, where a scene similar to 
that which had transpired between him and Champakala took 
place, after which he was directed by his new wife to seek 
a princess named Chandrakala, who was Madhumala's 
intimate friend. Setting out on the following morning the 
prince again made a long journey, and after crossing rivers, 
seas, mountains, and forests, at length reached the kingdom 
of Chandrakala's father. There he met with a hearty 
welcome, for the king, apprised beforehand of his future son- 
in-law's arrival, had made preparations to receive him. Madan 
and Chandrakala were married that very day, and when the 
former told the latter the object he had in view, she said that 
Madhumala was her friend, and that she would put him in 
the way of finding her. She also advised him not to accept 
any other dowry from her father save the peacock on the 
steeple of the golden temple in his kingdom. The boon was 
asked and granted ; and Madan, mounted on the peacock's 
back, started in search of Madhumala, promising Chandrakala 

1 A kind of palki carried on the shoulders. 



MADHUMALA 83 

that when he returned, he would take her to his father's 
kingdom with his other wives. 

Let us now return to Madhumala, whom we left sleeping 
on Madan's couch. The next morming, her maids, as usual, 
came into her room, and finding it disordered, asked her the 
reason. She answered nothing in reply, merely exclaiming 
again and again, " O Prince Madan." At this they feared 
that she had lost her reason, and ran to the king and queen 
with the report. They instantly hurried to their daughter's 
chamber, with the best physicians available in the kingdom. 
They were all at a loss to conjecture what was the matter with 
the princess, and leaving her undisturbed, they withdrew to 
hold a consultation, which, however, ended in nothing. Day 
after day passed and the king in despair gave orders to put 
his capital in mourning. His own palace of gold he had 
demolished, saying it was no longer of use to him until his 
daughter got Prince Madan back. He sent a written message 
throughout the habitable world, to the effect that there was a 
bride named Madhumala, with a kingdom, awaiting the prince 
Madankumar, but the messengers returned without finding 
the prince. The king, no longer able to bear the sight of his 
daughter's sufferings, resolved to make away with his life. 
But happily good fortune dawned upon him at last. One 
night the sentinels on duty saw a brilliant light, as of in- 
numerable torches high up in the air, and as they gazed at it 
a splendid looking youth astride a golden peacock alighted. 
It was thus that Madankumar came to find his beloved 
Madhumala. 

On alighting, the prince saw that the palace was in a 
ruined condition, and attributing it to some terrible calamity 
feared for the safety of his love. His anguish was intolerable, 
and he broke forth into bitter lamentations, saying, " Tell me, 
O skies and seas, what has caused these ruins, and who has 
robbed me of my beloved, beautiful as the full moon. O ye 
gods, bring my life, my Madhumala, back to me." His 
voice was heard by her whose ears had waited so long for it. 



84 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

and Madhumala, rushing forth from the chamber where she had 
for so many days imprisoned herself, caught her lover in her 
arms and taking him into the most secluded of her apartments 
kept its doors shut for seven days. 

In the meantime, her parents learned from the sentinels 
what had happened ; and on the seventh day, they came and 
knocked at the door of her room. No notice was at first 
taken of their summons, but on their repeatedly knocking and 
calling, Mudhumala from within asked her father if he could 
bear what he might see. On his replying, the door was 
opened, and the king and all the people with him exclaimed, 
"What is it that we see? Is it not the full moon by the 
side of the sun that rises at dawn ? Or may it not be two 
gilded pictures placed side by side." 

Next day, the king ordered the palace to be rebuilt, and 
it quickly attained its former splendour. An auspicious day 
was appointed for the marriage of Madan and Madhumala, 
and a letter was sent to King Dandadhur, the father of the 
former, inviting him to be present at the wedding. The 
letter was like precious balm to his and his wife's long- 
afflicted hearts, and with great rejoicings they set out for the 
kingdom under the ground. Their voyage was prosperous, 
and they arrived in time to witness the marriage, which was 
celebrated with unusual splendour. For thirteen days and 
nights, dainties were freely distributed to all the guests, 
whose number was unlimited, and a rich dowry consisting of 
a kingdom of seventy scores of Pergunnas, and of heaps of 
gems and gold mohurs, was given to Madankumar. 

A few days after this, King Dandadhur expressed the wish 
that his son, daughter-in-law, and attendants might be 
permitted to leave for home ; and preparations were at once 
made for their journey. Madan and Madhumala were to go 
on the peacock's back, while the others would sail in ships ; 
and on a day pronounced by astrologers as favourable the 
whole party left the kingdom, after the exchange of the most 
cordial farewells. King Dandadhur after a safe voyage 



MADHUMALA 85 

reached his kingdom, with all his attendants. But his son, 
though on the peacock's back, was late by a few days. He 
had had to delay some time on the way to visit his other 
wives, and arrange to take them along with him. At length 
he reached his father's dominions in safety, and entered 
the palace amidst joyous acclamations, grand illuminations, 
and fireworks, the family guru,^ the priest, and all those 
women fortunate enough to have their husbands living,- 
chanting hymns of thanksgiving and praise. 

^ Spiritual instructor. 

^ Hindu widows are prohibited from taking part in any joyous proceedings. 



II 

PUSHPAMALA, THE WREATH OF FLOWERS 

IN a certain country, the king and the prefect of police 
were both childless ; and they bewailed it as a great 
misfortune. One day an astrologer came to the wife of 
each, and pointing out one of the seven tanks near the 
palace, told them that they would have the long-desired son 
and heir were they to bathe in it. The next day they went to 
the tank ; the queen by the steps on one side, and the prefect's 
wife by those on the other. When they had dipped their 
heads in the water, the former called to the latter, and pro- 
posed that in anticipation of the fulfilment of their expectations, 
they should enter into a pledge. To this the prefect's wafe 
replied, that people like her did not understand what a pledge 
was, and that therefore she could not enter into one. At this 
the queen explained to her what a pledge meant, and said 
that the one she would propose was that their children, if of 
different sexes, should be married to each other ; but if of the 
same sex, they should be knit by eternal frendship. 

A scene of a similar nature was at that very moment being 
enacted elsewhere. The king and the prefect with innumerable 
body-guards were hunting in a forest. They had been on the 
look-out for game for hours, without success, and the king 
put the blame on the prefect of police, because he being an 
antkoorha^ his very presence was unpropitious. The prefect 
was a great flatterer ; so instead of turning the tables on the 
king, as he could with perfect justice have done, he agreed to 
submit to any punishment that might be inflicted. The 

1 Childless man. 



PUSHPAMALA 87 

flattery succeeded and the king kindly called him away from 
the others for a chat. The conversation was opened by the 
king, who said that during the previous night he had dreamed 
that a son was born to him, and another to the kotdl} To 
this, the latter, with a thousand apologies and with folded 
hands, begged permission to say that he had had a different 
dream, that a daughter was born to him, his master being 
blessed with a son. Contradiction was unbearable to the 
autocrat ; and in a rage he ordered his companion to break 
off a leaf from the banyan tree standing by, and bring it to 
him, so that he might put down in writing what he had to say 
concerning the matter under discussion between them. The 
leaf was brought, and the king wrote on it : " If, kotal, you 
have a son, and I a daughter, I will marry them to each other ; 
but if the reverse happens, I will have you beheaded. Again, 
if each of us gets a male child, I will give half my kingdom 
to your son." Of course the kotal could not but accept the 
conditions. 

In due time the queen and the kotal's wife gave birth, the 
former to a girl of unusual beauty, and the latter to a male 
child. Time helped the growth of each, and the two children 
were, when five years old, sent to the same pathshala.' 
Pushpamala, the king's daughter, sat on the throne, while the 
kotal's son sat below. In their studies they made rapid 
progress, especially in reading and writing, in which they 
showed great proficiency. One day the pen in the hand of the 
princess accidently dropped to the ground, and the kotal's son 
eagerly picked it up and gave it back to its owner. The same 
thing happened seven days in succession. But when on the 
eighth day the pen of the princess again fell to the ground, 
the kotal's hopeful did not take it up, and on being asked 
the reason, said that he would never more serve Pushpamala 
in any way, unless she exchanged garlands with him. The 
princess was thunderstruck, and when the pathshala broke up, 
she returned home in an angry frame of mind. 

' Prefect. 2 School. 



83 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

The incident of the pen took place when the princess and 
the kotal's son were each about fifteen years of age, and instead 
of estranging the heart of the one from the other, it produced 
such feelings in both of them as seemed vague and indefinable 
to themselves, but which may safely be said to have been the 
first germs of love. 

Next day, the pen that the kotal's son was using slipped 
from his hand, and the ink from it was spilt on the princess's 
face and clothes. A tremor seized the former ; and he was 
hesitatingly beginning an apology, when the latter picked up 
the pen and made it over to him. The boy, for reasons best 
known to himself, went home before the usual hour of dis- 
missal, leaving his bundle of books behind, but taking away 
the pen. The pathshala broke up at the appointed time, but 
Pushpamala lagged behind. It struck t\\'elve, yet she had not 
arrived home, and her mother grew anxious. The princess at 
length reached home in a strange humour, and in spite of the 
importunities of her mother, did not even touch the food 
before her, but retired into her room. The kotal's son too 
was in an unhappy frame of mind. Having reached home he 
moved about restlessly, unable to fix his mind on anything 
that had formerly interested him. Fate at last directed his 
wandering steps into his father's bedroom. Lying down on 
the bed he fell into a reverie which was suddenly broken in 
upon by the banyan leaf, on which the king had drawn up and 
signed the contract between him and the young man's father 
with regard to their unborn children, falling upon him. 
Taking up the leaf, and reading what was written on it, the 
kotal's son learned that he had the right to demand the 
princess's hand. Rushing into the king's presence, with a 
sword in his hand and the leaf in his pocket, he begged for 
the fulfilment of the royal promise. The king was at first 
thrown into confusion ; but in the twinkling of an eye, he 
collected himself, and ordered the young kotal to be driven 
out. The young man, much mortified, left the palace and 
walking at random, reached one of the seven tanks near by, 



PUSHPAMALA 89 

into which in disgust he threw the sword and the banyan leaf. 
He then directed his steps homewards. 

Just about the same time Pushpamala, persuaded by her 
mother, came down to bathe, and fate led her to the same tank. 
On finding the leaf floating, she took it up, and read what 
was written on it, and so intense were her feelings that she 
swooned away. One of the maids attending on her ran into 
the palace with the intelligence, and the king and the queen 
hastened to the spot. Restoratives were administered with 
success, and the princess was taken home. She remained 
silent and sullen, however, for the rest of the day, and spent a 
sleepless night. 

Next morning, both she and the kotal's son went to the 
pathshala and took their respective places. The tutor, finding 
something unusual in their demeanour, asked them to ex- 
plain it, at which Pushpamala showed him the leaf, and both 
of them asked his advice. He said that as the contract it 
contained had been entered into by their fathers, and as their 
mothers had also bound themselves by a promise, they must 
fulfil it. At this the princess left her throne to her lover, and 
sat on the floor at his feet ; and though there were no lessons 
that day, they remained there till the usual hour of dismissal, 
when each of them, making valuable presents to the guru, 
went home with the mutual understanding that they would 
leave the country together during the ensuing night. It was 
arranged therefore that the kotal's son should wait at the foot 
of a particular tree, w-hence he was to give the signal of his 
presence by playing on a flute. The night came, and the 
princess was subject to such feelings as generally work in the 
mind of one going to take so serious a step as that of leaving 
her parents and her home, with all its dear associations. Her 
heart palpitated and her whole body trembled. The last duty 
she thought of performing for her parents and the other 
inmates of the palace was to cook the best dishes for them, 
and to serve them with her own hands ; and her mother, 
unable to divine her motive, attributed her self-denial to a 



90 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

childish freak, and permitted her to act in her own way. She 
had finished cooking and serving the meal, when she heard 
her lover's flute, as if saying: — 

" O princess ! how long wilt thou be sleeping ? It is mid- 
night, hasten or the morning star will rise, and our plans be 
foiled." 

But as yet she could not go out, for the sentinels were still 
awake. It was midnight, and the flute was heard again : — 

"Ye stars and trees, witness that I am waiting for my 
sweetheart, and that she is delaying. Oh that she may not 
forget her promise ! " 

Then at the beginning of the fourth watch of the night, when 
the flute sounded once more, Pushpamala changed her clothes, 
tied her jewels in a bundle, and whispered to herself, "Stay, stay, 
my friend, stay a little while for this unfortunate maiden. In 
the first watch of the night I cooked the night-meal ; in the 
second I served it out ; during the third the guards were awake ; 
and now the fourth has come and I step out to meet thee. 
Little canst thou conceive my feelings on leaving my parents ! 
They will weep themselves blind at my absence ; and just as the 
cow lows for her young calf, so will their souls cry after me." 

Then the longed-for meeting took place, but the lovers did 
not at once proceed on their journey. The kotal's son, seeing 
that the dawn was not far off, induced the princess to take him 
into the royal armoury and stables, where he selected two good 
swords and two winged horses for himself and his betrothed. 
Then, disguised as two soldiers, they started with the speed of 
an arrow, and on the fourth day, in the evening, reached a grand 
mansion, which was the habitation of a dacoit^ king, his old 
mother, and six brothers. The brothers were out on a plunder- 
ing expedition, leaving their mother at home. She saw the two 
riders approaching the gate, and instantly accosted them, 
saying, " My children, my people are out, and I am here alone. 
Make yourselves, however, quite at home." After that she 
placed before them some oil to be rubbed on their bodies in 

' Robber. 



PUSHPAMALA 91 

preparation for the evening bath ; and when they seemed 
somewhat refreshed, offered them food. But the girl said that 
as they never ate anything not prepared by their own hands, 
they would cook themselves. At this the dacoit's mother, who 
had seen the valuables on the persons and horses of her guests, 
and from these had guessed that they were worth robbing, 
gave them such materials for cooking as would detain them 
longest, so that her sons might in the meantime come home, 
and do with them as they pleased. She gave them such fuel 
as would take long to ignite, and such rice and dal'^ as would 
not soon boil. Pushpamela commenced cooking under these 
disadvantages, and her face and eyes were swollen at the smoke 
from the oven. She was very ill at ease ; and her lover, who 
had gone for a bath in the tank near the house, was in a similar 
plight. The old woman had thrown water on the stairs on 
four different sides of the tank, to make them very slippery, and 
he could ascend them only after several falls and bruises. He 
smelt danger, and from outside the house gave the alarm to 
Pushpamala, saying that she must look sharp, and see that the 
horses were not removed. He then came in and helped her to 
finish cooking as soon as possible ; and both of them having 
gone through a hurried meal, got on their horses and galloped 
off. But the woman they left behind was too clever to be 
baulked. In order to enable her sons to track the fugitives, she 
managed to tie to the horses' hind legs very small, hardly 
perceptible bags of cloth filled with mustard seeds, and 
perforated in order to allow the escape of the seeds. The lovers 
did not notice the trick ; and so they rode on unaware of the 
danger, leaving the old woman in a frenzy at the delay of her 
sons. She waited a long time and then she had recourse to 
the plan, previously arranged between her and her sons, of 
making a bonfire in an emergency as a signal to them to come 
home. Accordingly she set fire to a stack of straw lying by, 
which quickly burnt into a red blaze, and instantly brought the 
dacoits home. Not letting them dismount, she seized hold of 

' Pulse. 



92 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

the reins of their horses, and turned the heads of the animals 
towards the road taken by her guests, telling her sons in the 
meantime of the mustard seeds that they would surely find on 
the way. They took the road pointed out to them and, over- 
taking the fugitives, made a fierce attack upon them, but such 
was the princess's dexterity in using the sword, that she cutoff 
the heads of six of them. The remaining dacoit, the youngest 
of the brothers, with a dried bit of straw which he found lying 
on the way between his teeth, implored her to spare his life, on 
condition that he would ever remain her slave in return. The 
kotal's son recommended the bestowal of this favour, saying 
that it could not do any harm. But the princess said, " My dear, 
remember that the sages have said that to leave unpaid the 
least portion of a debt, not to extinguish the last spark of a 
fire, to spare an inveterate enemy even when he is at his last 
gasp, are as foolish as for a person to approach blindfolded a 
yawning abyss. Do not tell me to spare the fellow." Her 
lover, in spite of the warning, persisted in his recommendation, 
saying that even granting that the robber's penitence was all 
pretence, he singly could not injure them when they were two 
together, and Pushpamala at last relented. They then rode 
forward with the robber as their groom, and finding a large piece 
of open ground with a beautiful tank, and an attractive orchard, 
the kotal's son suggested that they should take a bath, and satisfy 
the cravings of hunger by eating some fruit. The princess 
yielded, though unwillingly, and they both got down into the 
tank, leaving their horses and swords on the bank in charge of 
the groom. This ruffian, taking advantage of their temporary 
inattention, took up one of the swords and cut off at one stroke 
the head of Pushpamala's lover. The murderer, having by 
some means seen through her disguise, cast in her teeth the 
fate of him for whom she had left all, and asked her to be his. 
The girl, knowing her danger, controlled her grief, and 
pretended to be glad at the request. The robber then took his 
seat on the horse of the deceased and invited her to do the 
same. But she said it did not look well for her to be on the 



PUSHPAMALA 93 

horse that her new lover rode, and that therefore she would 
ride her own horse, with her own sword in her hand, to resist 
any unforeseen attack. The fellow, too foolish to see through 
the pretence, agreed to the arrangement, and by the time he 
had gone a few yards, his head fell dissevered from his body. 
No longer in fear, the princess had time to think of her irre- 
parable loss, and wept and cried, rolling on the ground with 
her lover's head held close to her breast. But she had not 
to weep long, for he was restored to her by Pavbati} How it 
happened may be gathered from the following dialogue 
between the goddess Shiva and her husband. 

" My lord, " said Parbati, " I hear a woman crying. Who 
may it be ? " 

" Nobody cries save one in grief," replied Shiva: " but what 
is that to us ? While passing on our way, you notice every- 
thing. Come, let us pass by." 

" No, my lord," urged Parbati. " It is not for me to pass 
by when one of my daughters is in trouble. She may be a 
wife bewailing the loss of her husband, or a mother that of 
her child. My heart bleeds to leave her without consolation ! " 

Saying this, the goddess willed herself to be taken to the 
spot whence the sound of crying came ; and this being done, 
she saw poor Pushpamala dipped waist-deep in the water of 
the tank and heard her uttering the words, " O my poor 
husband, gone for ever from me." 

This was too much for Parbati, and she said to Shiva, 
" Lord, she must have her husband back." 

What could the god then do, but stop the chariot? He 
took the form of an old Brahmin, and she of an old Brahmini, 
and they appeared before the object of their pity. They asked 
her the cause of her lamentation, and she said, "Father and 
mother, listen to my tale. I left my parents and the royal 
splendour of their palace in company with our kotal's son, 
whom I loved, but whom, in spite of the promise they had 
previously made, they did not recognize as a fit suitor for my 

■" The goddess Durga. 



94 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

hand. He has just been killed by a dacoit." Shiva said in 
reply, " Well, let us have the head, and turn your eyes away 
from us." After a good deal of hesitation, lest she should be 
deprived of her lover's head, her last consolation, she did as 
desired. A moment elapsed, and when told to look back, 
what was her surprise to find her dear one standing by her 
in the full panoply of a warrior, and a chariot flying overhead 
in the air. The lovers, overjoyed at their re-union, spent the 
day and the greater part of the night there, and starting some 
hours before dawn, reached a beautiful garden in another 
kingdom. Feeling very drowsy, the kotal's son proposed that 
they should get down from their horses and rest awhile. His 
proposal was accepted, and overpowered by sleep, he succumbed 
to it, the princess sitting by, with his head on her lap. 

As the morning sun was rising in full splendour, a woman 
approached them. It was she who supplied the palace with 
flowers, and she came into the garden to gather them. Now 
this woman was a witch, and she had the power by a single 
glance to turn a human being into a beast. She cast her 
spell, a wreath of flowers, on the two figures before her, and 
immediately the kotal's son was changed into a long-bearded 
goat. Over Pushpamala, however, her spell happily had no 
power, the princess being a Sati. But who can picture the girl's 
surprise? The whole world was vanishing before her eyes 
and the ground slipping from under her feet. For a space 
she stood dumbfounded. Seeing her beloved following the 
witch, she left him, and with the bridles of the horses in her 
hands walked towards the palace. The people round about 
admired her in her soldier's garb, for she was still so equipped. 
The sentinels at the gate, prepossessed in her favour, recom- 
mended her to the king, who offered her the post of a guard, 
to keep watch at the eight gates of the palace, the remunera- 
tion being three gold mohurs a day. 

Now it chanced there was a Shankhini^ of enormous size 
in the country, which committed great havoc among men and 

1 A snake. 



PUSHPAMALA 95 

beasts, and which no one so far had been able to kill. Orders 
were at length given by the king to Pushpamala, alias Ranjit, 
to free the country from the pest ; and having for several 
days watched for it, she discovered that it every day visited a 
tank. She asked the king for three days' leave of absence 
from the gates, and this being granted, she, with food sufficient 
for that time, climbed up a tree by the side of the tank, and 
remained there in expectation of seeing the snake. At the 
end of the third night it came to the spot to quench its thirst, 
felling the large trees on its way with terrible lashes of its 
tail. Having quenched its thirst it went away. Pushpamala 
saw this, and expecting the monster's return the next night, 
had recourse to a stratagem to entrap it. With this object 
she propped up the trees, so that they might appear to be 
standing firmly, although liable to fall at the least shock. 
The snake came back as expected, and when its huge tail, 
moving this way and that, struck the trees, they fell upon it, 
and it could not shake them off. Seeing it thus arrested, 
Pushpamala got down from the tree, and with one stroke of 
her sword cut off its head. But what was her wonder to find 
that out of the snake's trunk came the witch who had turned 
the kotal's son into a goat. The witch fell prostrate before 
the princess, and said : — 

" I see in thee the personification of chastity. Thou hast 
freed me from the torments of hell." 

" Who art thou ? " asked Pushpa. . 

" I Avas thy mother in my former birth," replied the witch. 
" I broke my pledge to the kotal's wife, and have been 
punished in this birth. I was doomed to pass the day as 
a nialini^ and the night inside the snake which you have 
killed. As a snake, I have ravaged thy father's kingdom." 

" O my mother, am I indeed thy daughter? " cried Pushpa. 
" In me thou hadst a viper nested in thy breast. But I 
fulfilled thy vow in marrying the kotal's son." 

" My Pushpa, my darling, come to my bosom," exclaimed 

^ A gardener. 



96 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

her mother. " Greatly do I rue my having turned thy 
husband into a goat. I did not then recognize thee. Oh, 
how can I make amends for what I have done ? Take the 
snake's seven heads, take this basket of flowers, and they will 
stand thee in good stead. Dear daughter, I have another 
confession to make. I turned into goats kings and kotals, 
five thousand and two in number, of whom I have as a snake 
eaten all but one ; and their bones are lying in a heap in my 
house. Wash the flowers in this basket in water, and sprinkle 
it on the bones. The dead will then rise into life. And as 
for thy lover in the goat, the touch of one of these flowers will 
bring him to his former self." 

These were the last words of the witch. When she had 
finished speaking she fell down and expired. Pushpamala, 
sorely afflicted at the sad story of the witch, her mother, went 
to the garden in front of the house she had occupied, and 
being much wearied on account of the vigils she had kept for 
four successive nights, fell asleep with the snake's heads by 
her side. The gardener at dawn came there, and finding 
them, took them to the king, and said, " Mighty lord, you sent 
your sepoy, who is made much of, to kill the snake. There 
he is asleep in the flower garden, while I have done the work 
for which he was commissioned. Here are the snake's 
heads." The king believed what he heard, and having 
liberally rewarded the gardener, sent a body of soldiers to 
fetch the sepoy, to answer for neglect of duty. The soldiers 
went out, and finding him asleep, caught hold of his turban, 
and gave him such a pull as to displace his garments ; where- 
upon the young soldier stood transformed into a girl of 
ravishing beauty. Pushpa hung down her head in shame, 
and followed the soldiers into the royal durbar. The king 
was astonished to behold the charming figure before him, 
and asked the gardener how she could have been found 
asleep in Ranjit's place, and what had become of him. The 
gardener was speechless ; but the soldiers explained every- 
thing. The king then addressed Pushpa in these words : 



PUSHPAMALA 97 

" Who are you ? and why did you assume disguise ? 
Surely you disgraced yourself and your family, and sought 
shelter in my palace. Be off." But Pushpa replied, " O king, 
the father of the fatherless and the helper of the helpless, 
listen to me before I leave your presence. In the house of 
the gardener before you, there are a goat and heaps of bones 
of a thousand and one goats. Let me have them, I beseech 
you." The king asked the gardener if what the girl said was 
true ; but the gardener denied every word. Pushpa, at this, 
stepped forward and said, " O Maharaja, send your men to 
verify my statement. I have to charge your gardener with 
another falsehood. Let him, with his face towards the sun, 
affirm that it was he who killed the snake, and not L" The 
girl's manners impressed the king with the truth of what she 
said, and he sent men to the gardener's house to see if the 
goat and bones were there, reserving for the time being his 
verdict on the question as to who had killed the snake. The 
girl, with folded hands, again said, " O gracious majesty, allow 
me to remain in the palace for four days more, for I have 
vowed to do so. On the morning of the fifth day I will leave 
here, but not before I have seen the goat and the bones 
brought from the gardener's house." The king granted her 
request, and Pushpa remained in the palace, pondering over 
the past and the future. 

The four days came to an end, and on the morning of the 
fifth day she was summoned by the king to appear before the 
crowded court to say what she knew about the goat and the 
bones, of which she had spoken and which were at that time 
lying there. She came, clad in female attire, and said, "O 
king, give me your permission to tell you a story connected 
with the matter before you." The king nodded his assent, 
and she continued thus, "Witness sun and moon, witness the 
elements, the truth of what I say. I was a king's daughter, 
affianced by my parents to our kotal's son before we were 
born. My parents afterwards broke their promise, and we, 
partly to redeem their word, and partly in obedience to the 

H 



98 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

flame of love within us, left home and were married. Our 
married life has, till the present, been one of misfortune. See 
here the goat, which is my husband transformed by magic ; 
and these bones are those of a thousand and one goats, into 
which as many kings and kotals were changed." 

The speech being ended, she followed the advice of the 
witch in her dying moments, and her late victims stood up in 
their natural forms, to the infinite surprise of the whole court. 
The gardener, in extreme horror, was heard to cry aloud : — 

" O save me, Pushpa, my darling ! In my former birth 
I was your father, but I could not recognize you till now. I 
have become a mali^ for the sin of having violated the oath I 
made with regard to your marriage. My sin is now expiated 
to some extent, but at this moment I shall be changed into a 
ram. Only you will be able to bring me and your mother, 
who is now a jessamine flower close at hand, into human 
existence again, and this you can do by taking the flower off 
its stem and placing it on my head." In the twinkling of an 
eye there was a fierce-looking hairy ram in the gardener's 
place, and the whole court was in utter amazement. The 
sight was unbearable to Pushpa, who, leaving her husband to 
see that the ram might not go out, went in search of the flower, 
and having obtained it, she placed it on the animal's head. 
Immediately her father and mother regained their natural 
forms, and the king left his throne to receive them. After a 
friendly conversation it was settled that Pushpa and the 
kotal's son should be formally married. A priest was brought, 
and the wedding concluded with great rejoicings. 

After spending a few days in that kingdom, Pushpa with 
her parents and her husband went to her own country, and the 
first thing she did was to revive the people there who had 
been destroyed by the witch. The old kotal and his wife rose 
into life again to embrace their son and daughter-in-law, and 
every one in the kingdom resumed his usual avocation. 
Pushpa's life after this was one of unalloyed happiness. 

1 Gardener. 



Ill 

M ALAN CHAM ALA 
THE WREATH IN A FLOWER GARDEN 

THERE was once a king who was supremely happy 
save for one thing. He was childless, and this one 
sorrow dimmed all his happiness. Though he did 
everything that was enjoined in the Shastras, he 
knew that Fate was against him. One night he dreamed that 
a godlike form appeared and told him that he would have a 
son if he could, on the day of the next full moon, at one 
attempt, dislodge two mangoes from the tree nearest to the 
palace. After obtaining them he must eat one and give the 
other to his wife. Thinking this to be a divine communi- 
cation, on the morning of the day appointed, the king went 
to the tree, attended by his friends, ministers, and other 
important officials. His first attempt to bring down the 
mangoes failed, and though he shot at them with arrows, and 
pelted them with stones, they still remained hanging on the 
tree. All his attendants were also unsuccessful in their 
attempts, except the kotdl, or prefect of police, who at last 
brought down the mangoes and handed them over to his 
master, to the latter's infinite delight. The party having 
returned to the palace, the king ate one of the mangoes and 
made the queen eat the other, and at the end of ten months 
and ten days a son was born. There were great rejoicings ; 
a thousand drums and as many trumpets rent the air, and 
presents and alms were given to all, without distinction. Six 
days passed in this way, and on the evening of the sixth day 



loo BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

the SJietara Puja ^ was performed, after which the whole 
palace anxiously waited for the advent of the god Bidhatapurush 
at midnight, to write the child's fortune on his forehead. The 
god came in due time, and when, after fulfilling his mission, 
he was leaving the room, he touched with his feet the 
gardener's wife, who had come with the flowers required for 
the Puja, and who after long waiting had fallen asleep at the 
door of the room. Suddenly aroused out of her sleep, she 
seized the feet of the god, and threatened to detain him until 
he told her what he had written on the child's forehead. After 
much altercation, the god was compelled to reveal the secret, 
the most important part of which was that the new-born 
prince was to live only for twelve days. The sad communi- 
cation was next morning made known to the king, the queen, 
and all the inmates of the palace ; and loud cries of lamenta- 
tion filled the house. The king consulted astrologers, and 
they advised him to make an appeal to the gods for the 
prolongation of his son's life. The advice was followed ; and 
the gods, moved by his prayers, sent, after a long consultation, 
one of themselves in the form of a Brahmin to tell him that 
they had reversed the decree of Bidhatapurush, and that the 
prince would live a long life, provided he was at once married 
to a girl twelve years old. Delighted at this communication, 
the king, without delay, sent men to look for a princess of 
that age, for he would not marry his son to one of lower rank. 
But the messengers returned unsuccessful in their mission, 
and the parents of the child became ill with grief until one day 
the kotal, partly out of sympathy with his master and mistress, 
and partly to aggrandize himself and his family, sought their 
chamber, and with the greatest humility offered to the new- 
born babe the hand of his daughter, Malanchamala, who was 
of the prescribed age. The couple in their dire distress could 
not but accept the proposal. The kotal, however, on reaching 
home was roundly abused by his wife, whom he had not 

' A Hindu ceremony performed on the sixth evening following a male child's birth, at 
which food is distributed. 



MALANCHAMALA loi 

consulted in the matter. On being informed of her husband's 
intention she cried out in anger, " What ! shall I consent to 
my daughter's marriage with a babe who is to live only for 
twelve days ? You are determined to ruin my dear daughter, 
who has never had much happiness in her life as it is. She 
lay on the bed of illness continually for three years, and this 
has greatly weakened her ; and now to join her fortune with 
that of one who is to live for only four or five days more 
is to doom her to perpetual widowhood. Go, tell your king 
that I will never consent to your proposal." Then turning to 
her daughter she said, " Come, Malanchamala, let us leave a 
country where such unhappiness awaits you." 

But Malanchamala replied, " Mother ! the match is too 
flattering to be rejected. It is known that the touch of a 
rough diamond cuts the hand, but still people grasp it with 
avidity. There is a precious gem within my hold, and if I can 
possess it, even for a short time, I shall feel myself highly 
blessed. To be a widowed princess is a matter of rare luck. 
But one thing, father, I should like to do, and that is to tell 
the king that I can marry the prince only on condition that he 
remains with us in our house during the greater part of our 
wedded life, and that the royal family eat the food cooked by 
my mother and myself, and further, that if the prince dies 
while under his parents' guardianship, his body be made over 
to me." 

The kotal arrived at the court, and laid the conditions 
before the king. The latter, on hearing them, was furious 
with rage, and had the kotal put into chains and his daughter 
carried to the palace. The marriage took place, but it was a 
mere farce. The bridegroom was brought to the place where 
the ceremony was to be performed, crying at his mother's 
breast, and the bride soothed him by dangling him in her lap. 
The rite was hurried through by the priest, and the bride 
carried her husband into the bridal chamber. Even the 
elements seemed angry at this mock marriage. A furious 
thunder-storm broke over their heads, the wind blowing 



102 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

down some portions of the palace, while a fire which suddenly 
broke out carried on the work of devastation. The prince 
was seized with a chill, and died in the arms of his wife. 
The king and queen, with a crowd following them, ran to the 
door of the room, and bursting it open, dragged out the bride. 
Attributing their misfortune to her and to her father, they 
ordered the latter to be beheaded, and inflicted unheard-of 
cruelties on the former. The next morning she was paraded 
round the city, astride a donkey, with ghoul poured on her 
head. She then had her eyes plucked out with red-hot pincers, 
and ultimately, as if the work of vengeance still remained 
incomplete, she was cast upon the pyre erected for her 
husband's funeral. But throughout all these indignities she 
was unmoved. Calmly she sat on the pyre, with the dead 
prince in her lap, unhurt by the fire, which after blazing for a 
time, was suddenly extinguished by an unseen agency. Days 
and months passed over her head, and she still sat with the 
dead body of the child at her breast. Demons, ghosts, hob- 
goblins and other evil spirits came to her, and with jaws wide 
open, danced round her, saying, " Give us the corpse, and we 
wall make a feast of it." But the look that she cast upon 
them w^as so fierce in its intensity that even they fled before it. 
At length a beautiful girl appeared before her and muttered 
sox^t Mantras over the dead child, which at once recalled it to 
life. After this, other visitors daily brought milk and other 
necessaries for the prince ; and Malancha passed her days in 
his company, regardless of her own privations and dangers. 
The infant smiled, and she smiled with him. He cried, and 
she was unhappy. She bathed him with her tears, dried 
his body with her hairs, and putting the black paint beneath 
his eyes, kissed him a thousand times. The spirits of hell 
could not bear this happy sight, and to starv^e him they 
drank up on the sly the milk on which he lived. Malancha 
was forced at last to leave the place, and go with the child at 
her breast in search of fresh milk. She went far without 
success, and while still seeking, she was waylaid by a tiger, 



MALANCHAMALA 103 

who called upon her to throw the babe to him, saying, " For 
seven days I have been fasting ; give me the child and I 
will break my fast. You will have many other children in 
time, and it will be an act of piety if you now give me 
a meal." 

"This is not my son, but my husband," replied Malancha. 
"Of what use to you will be this small bit of flesh ? It will 
be like a blade of grass given to an elephant for food. Spare 
this poor infant, and eat me." 

To which the tiger replied in surprise, " What ! this is your 
husband ? I will eat neither of you. Tell me what has 
brought you hither ? " 

Malancha thereupon told the tiger her history, on hearing 
which he exclaimed, " Mother! I stand as your protector. I 
will build a hut here for you, and as long as you will remain 
under my eyes, Death itself will not dare approach you." 

"Thank you, tiger," said Malancha gratefully. " Can you 
tell me where I can get milk for my husband ? " 

" Milk is very rare here," answered the tiger. " But I will 
try and get it for you." 

So saying, the tiger went on his errand, leaving Malancha 
crying in great anxiety. 

During the tiger's absence, its mate came to the spot and 
said, " Who is it that is crying for milk in this jungle place ? 
There is no milch cow in this part of the country. I can, how- 
ever, give you some milk from my breast." Malancha gladly 
accepted the offer, and the tiger, who soon returned, without 
having succeeded in obtaining any milk, was delighted at the 
arrangement. 

A hut was built by him for the poor girl, and the boy, 
who was named Chandrainanik^ thrived on the milk of the 
tigress, his playmates being her cubs. Five years passed in 
this way, when one day Malancha told the tiger that she was 
weary of her solitary life, and that she had begun to long for 
human companionship again. 

' Moon-like. 



]04 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

" You want to leave us ? " exclaimed the tiger. " What is 
it that you want? Tell me, and you shall have it." 

" My husband is a king's son," replied Malancha, " and 
now that he is five years old he must be put to school, 
so that later on he may be qualified to fill his proper 
position." 

"There are learned scholars here," the tiger assured her, 
" and I can get as many of them as you like to tutor your 
husband." 

" No, uncle, forgive me," Malancha answered him. " I will 
go and live in the nearest town, where you may visit me as 
often as you please." 

The tiger at length yielded, though with great reluctance, 
and the objects of his love and care left him. It was a great 
blow to him, to the tigress, and to the cubs ; and they suffered 
greatly on account of it. 

The kotal's daughter and the prince, in the meantime, 
reached in four days a large stretch of jungle from which there 
seemed to be no outlet. They were too tired to move on, and 
so they sat under a tree near a flower garden, belonging to a 
Malini, which had produced no flowers for many years. The 
tank in it had become dry, and it was obvious that no one had 
recently visited the garden. On the approach of the two 
travellers, however, the garden became suddenly full of 
flowers, and bees and butterflies crowded there. The malini, 
noticing the change, ran towards the garden with great delight, 
and was greatly surprised to find the strangers seated under a 
tree. She thus addressed Malanchamala — " O Mother ! who 
are you ? a human being, a goddess, or 3. peri} " 

" I am neither a goddess nor a peri, but a houseless girl, 
wandering about with this dear boy," replied Malancha 
sadly. 

" Come into my house," cried the malini, full of sympathy. 
" This is not a fit place for you. I had a sister's daughter, 
who has left me these twelve years. She was like you in age, 
beauty, and every other respect, and you remind me much of 



MALANCHAMALA 105 

her. As a favour, live with me. I will call you niece, and 
you in return shall call me aunt." 

At length it was settled that Malancha and the prince 
should live with the malini. Malancha thought that though 
the arrangement would in no way give her access to 
society, yet from there she might come to know the events of 
the outside world. At the request of her hostess she ate the 
stale rice given her, and gave the milk placed before her to 
Chandramanik. When it was evening she did the domestic 
duties appropriate to the hour, and retired for the night. 

The malini within a short time obtained a modest income 
from the garden, and had two new rooms built on to her house, 
in one of which she herself slept, giving the other to her 
guests, and leaving the old room vacant for the time being. 
One day Malancha asked the malini if any arrangement could 
be made for the education of the boy with her, and was told 
that he might be sent to the Guru in the palace, who besides 
teaching the princes, received other pupils, no matter whose 
sons they were. Chandramanik, therefore, went there daily 
for instruction. Seven years passed in this way, during which 
the relationship between him and Malancha was kept hid from 
him, as well as from the malini. 

One day, the king's daughter was admitted into the school. 
After this she attended it daily, but made no progress whatever. 
Her seven brothers asked her the cause of this ; and she coldly 
confessed that the malini's boy (as Chandramanik was reputed 
to be) had so beautiful a face that she could not avert her eyes 
from it, and attend to the lessons. The explanation displeased 
the princes very much, and they thought of a plan to get rid 
of the boy. It was suspected by the princes that he, the son 
of a poor Mali, had but a scanty wardrobe, and therefore, to 
scare him away from school, they told him that if ever he 
presented himself before them, except in nicely washed clothes, 
he should lose his head. Deeply wounded at this, he went 
home with tears in his eyes, and told Malancha the reason. 
The latter immediately calling the malini into her presence, 



io6 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

asked her to procure him clothes surpassing in quality those 
worn by the princes, at the same time putting into her hand a 
diamond which she had brought from her father's house. The 
girl's desire was fulfilled, and on thenextmorning Chandramanik 
was at \k\t pathsala wearing his new dress. The princes were 
astonished, and their sister, with looks of delight, exclaimed, 
" See, brothers ! Here is before you the moon of heaven in 
human form. This youth can never be a mali's son." The 
words cut the brothers to the quick, and they conspired to put 
him into new difficulties. They told him that, clothed in so 
gorgeous a dress, he must not walk to the school, but come in 
a vehicle befitting his clothes, otherwise they would cut off his 
head. 

The poor boy went home more dispirited than before, and 
being asked the reason, unburthened his mind. Malancha, 
rich with the money obtained from the sale of the diamond, 
engaged for him the next morning a Chatiirdola} In this the 
boy went to the pathsala, to the confusion of the princes and 
the joy of the princess who now gave out her determination to 
marry him, since it was evident, she said, that he was no ordinary 
being. But the princes were still full of venom against him, 
and proposed a horse-race, on the condition that if he failed to 
be the first to reach the goal he should forfeit his head. 

The circumstances being related to her by Chandramanik, 
Malanchamala, leaving him with the malini, started in quest 
of a fleet horse. Her purse was full, and she knew that she 
could buy an excellent one. The search extended over many 
days until she reached a kingdom where the king and the 
people were in deep mourning. She asked the cause, and was 
told that a great calamity had befallen them. The swift 
winged mare of the king had gone furiously mad, devouring 
men and beasts, destroying all that came within its reach. 
Being under some strange influence which she could not 
account for, she ventured to approach the mare, and told her 
that she was wanted by Chandramanik. The mare seemed to 

' A richly furnished vehicle borne by men, and used only by the wealthy. 



MALANCHAMALA 107 

be startled at the name, and exclaimed, " O lady, my name is 
Hari Harikali, and my birthplace is Chandrapur. Can you 
tell me where Chandramanik is ? " Receiving an answer to 
her query, the mare ran forward, telling Malancha to follow 
with as much speed as possible. On they ran, until at last the 
mare led her into the kingdom of Chandramanik's father. 
The people recognized their kotal's daughter, and reported her 
arrival to the king. The king and queen rushed out, and 
being convinced that it was she, were surprised to see that she 
was still alive, bearing no marks of injury on her body. They 
ascribed it to the intervention of the gods, and implored her 
to stop and tell them if a similar miracle had taken place with 
regard to their son. Malancha gave no heed to what they said, 
but ran on, till late at night she returned to the malini's house. 
When the next day dawned, Malancha fully equipped the mare, 
and Chandramanik, too short to vault into the saddle unaided, 
was helped up by her ; and pretending to see how he looked on 
horseback she cast a tender look up at him ; and under 
pretence of cleaning his shoes took the dust from under them 
and put it, as if carelessly, on her head. The boy remarked 
it and said, "Who are you, and what are you to me?" 
Malancha said, " I am a kotal's daughter, engaged to look 
after you." 

The mare, with the rider, reached the palace, and the princes 
were astounded at the sight. So good a horse they had never 
seen, and they at once set their heads together to devise fresh 
means of bringing to grief the man whom they supposed to be 
but a mail's son. At length they came to the conclusion that, 
since their word had been given, the race must be run, in spite 
of the superiority of their rival's horse, consoling themselves 
with the thought that even if he won, by virtue of their 
position, they could have him beheaded afterwards. 

The race was run, and Chandramanik proved the winner. 
The princes, feigning admiration, asked him to come with 
them into the palace, with the intention of making away with 
him. The simple youth was deceived, and turned towards the 



ic8 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

palace gate ; but the mare refused to move in that direction 
until forced to do so by whip and spur. As soon as they 
reached the tower at the gate, the princess, from the balcony, 
cast down a garland of flowers which encircled the young 
man's neck. The princes were much puzzled. The idea was 
forced upon them that the garland was of betrothal, and that 
therefore they could not harm him openly. They racked their 
brains, however, to discover some means of injuring him ; and 
relating the circumstances to their father, asked him to call a 
council to determine the course to be taken. At the same 
time they bribed the councillors to advise him to do something 
that would remove the man they hated from their sight. They 
succeeded, and the decision was that the mail's son could 
marry the princess only on the condition of being after the 
wedding incarcerated for fourteen years. That night the 
nuptials were celebrated, and the wedded couple, after three 
days, were separated, and the bridegroom was cast into a 
dungeon, with an iron chain round his neck. 

Malancha heard of the wedding in due time, but she was 
not at all displeased at the thought of having a rival. She 
thought, however, that it would have been better if she had 
previously informed Chandramanik of the relationship between 
them. But what had been done could not be undone, and she 
waited for the return of her husband. But four days passed, 
and he did not turn up. At length, on the morning of the 
V fifth day, the mare returned without its rider, and the poor wife, 
suspecting something wrong, threw herself upon the ground in a 
paroxysm of grief. Recovering somewhat, she called the mare 
to her, and tied upon her neck a letter addressed to her 
husband's father, to the effect that his son was to be found in 
the kingdom of Raja Dudhbaran,^ married to a princess, but 
cast into prison. She then left the malini, saying that she 
would go to her own country and drown herself in her father's 
tank, so deep was her grief. 

In the course of her journey, she reached the place where 

' The Raja of milk-white cornplexjon. 



MALANCHAMALA 109 

her old friends the tiger and tigress lived, and falling prostrate 
before them she cried out, " Oh, dear uncle and aunt, feed upon 
me ; for I am loath to live." 

" Mother ! what do you say?" replied the tigress. "You 
are the light of our eyes. See, we are half dead at our 
separation from you. Where is the child ? Where is that 
jewel of a boy whom I fed from my breast ? ". 

" Uncle and aunt ! he was my husband, and I have lost 
him," she answered. " Raja Dudhbaran's daughter, Kanchi, 
has married him, and now he has been cast into prison." 

Then the tiger spoke. " Follow me," he said, " and I will 
help you to get your husband back. Take these few hairs of 
mine and keep them twisted in your hair, and you will pass 
invisible. Now let us go to Raja Dudhbaran." 

In the meantime the mare, Harikali, took Malancha's 
letter to her father-in-law, and he having read it very 
attentively, at once started with a large army to liberate 
his son. After a long and wearisome journey he reached 
the malini's house, which had been referred to in his 
daughter-in-law's letter. After some talk with the woman, 
he wrote to the Raja Dudhbaran, informing him that he 
had come to demand the safe delivery of his son, Chandra- 
manik, who being mistaken for a mail's son, had been 
unjustly cast into prison. But the letter did not produce 
the expected result. Dudhbaran challenged Chandra's father 
to a fight, and a fierce battle ensued, ending with the total 
defeat and capture of the latter. 

Leaving him in captivity, let us see what Malancha 
was doing. With the tiger's hair twined into hers, she 
immediately entered the dungeon where her husband was, 
lifted his emaciated form from the ground, and embracing 
him, imprinted a thousand kisses on his cheeks. Delay 
was dangerous, and she commenced breaking the chain 
around his neck with her teeth, which had been made 
sharp and unyielding as a file by her having chewed a leaf 
the tiger had given her. Link after link fell to the ground, 



no BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

till Chandra, free from the chain, took Malancha by the 
hand, and strong with the tigress's milk he had drunk while 
young, burst open the door of the dungeon. 

The tiger and the tigress meanwhile entered the palace, 
and made a feast of the men and the animals they came 
across. The seven princes were devoured, and the princess 
Kanchi would have met the same fate if Malancha had not 
burst in, and overcome with grief cried, " Oh, uncle and 
aunt ! have you destroyed every one here ? Are Chandra's 
relations by his late marriage all killed ? Is she who married 
him out of pure love alone lost to him for ever ? " 

The tiger replied that no one of the royal family was 
alive, except the princess ; and that she too must fall under 
his and the tigress's jaws. At this Malancha, beating her 
head upon the ground, adjured them to spare the girl. Her 
request was granted, and being told by the tiger to get some 
water for him to appease his thirst, she went to the nearest 
tank, where as fate would have it Chandra's father, released 
by the tiger, had come to wash himself, after having left the 
company of his son and his newly acquired daughter-in-law, 
who had a few minutes before been introduced to him. 
Malancha bowed down to him, and on being asked who she 
was, told him. Who could then picture the look of terror 
that he cast upon her ? Shouting to his attendants, he cried, 
" Let us be off at once. We have fallen into the hands of 
that horrible witch, the kotal's daughter." But they replied, 
".May it please your majesty to note that this kotal's 
daughter has saved your son's life, and brought you here. 
It is she, again, who has got the prince out of the dungeon, 
and it is not proper to treat her thus." But the king only 
cried out, " No, no, she is a witch, and I will never permit her 
to step into my kingdom." Whereupon the king, Chandra, 
Kanchi and the others started homewards. 

Being thus left behind, Malancha went to her friends, the 
tiger and tigress, and told them how she had been insulted by 
her father-in-law. They asked her to remain with them, 



MALANCHAMALA in 

which she did for some months, until the desire of seeing 
her husband again overcame her. 

Taking counsel with the tiger and tigress she asked them 
to get a dozen Chaturdolas ; one for herself, two others for 
them, and the rest for friends of theirs whom she would like 
to take with her to overawe her father-in-law, and thus induce 
him to receive her. The arrangement was made, and 
Malancha, with a number of attendants, duly reached her 
destination. The tiger was the first to visit the king and 
inform him of the arrival of the guests. He told him also 
that Malancha was one of them. But the king, without a 
word, gave the tiger a kick, and ordered his bowmen to shoot 
down the trespassers. At this the tiger withdrew in a fury, 
and asked Malancha's permission to devour the whole palace, 
except Chandra only. Horror seized Malancha at this sugges- 
tion and she cried out, " Uncle, do not say so. I will 
worship my father-in-law's feet. I will wipe them with my 
hair. The next time I hear you speak thus, I will kill 
myself." The tiger, loving her as his daughter, was filled 
with fear at the threat, and remained quietly at the palace gate 
with her and his other companions. When seven days had 
passed thus, the tigers left her, and she sought her mother's 
house. The latter, torn with grief for her husband, was in 
extreme distress, and the mother and daughter, after living 
together a few days, resolved to make an end of their lives. 
With this intent they went one night to a tank, into which 
the kotal's widow threw herself, and thus put an end to her 
life and its sorrows. Her daughter, however, shrank from 
following her example, for the remembrance of Chandramanik's 
face held her back. To die without a last lingering look at 
him was impossible for her ; and she therefore left the tank. 
The desire of seeing her husband becoming too strong for 
her to resist, she devised the expedient of twining the tiger's 
hair into hers, and of thus becoming invisible, and at midnight 
resorted to the sleeping-room of her husband. There she 
found him in a sound sleep, with the ravishing Kanchi by his 



112 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

side. She was enchanted with the sight. So great was her 
joy that she broke forth into a song, the purport of which 
was: — 

" Oh, my dear, dear husband ! to you I gave my hand, when 
you were only twelve days old, with death staring you in the 
face. I revived you through the blessing of the gods, fed 
you with tiger's milk, and brought you up, as your position 
required. Now I see you happy. May your happiness be 
everlasting. I pray for your father too, but only because he 
is your father. I love the girl beside you. May God give 
you both long life and prosperity." 

When in her excitement her voice rose high, and the 
tiger's hair, disengaged from hers, fell to the ground, Chandra 
suddenly awoke, and seizing her by one end of her sari, 
he asked her who she was. She replied that she was a 
common maidservant. But he said, " No, that cannot be. 
Your face is imprinted on my mind. You fed and nursed 
me, and you put me in the way of getting a wife in Kanchi ; 
and though the idea is as faint as a dream, I know that it was 
you who took me out of that horrible prison. My bene- 
factress ! I will never more let you leave me. Tell me to 
whom I owe my life and this happiness." 

Malancha replied that his questions could not be answered, 
as it was dawn, and the people in the palace would overhear 
her. But the prince pressed her in so loud a voice as to draw 
his father there. The latter was amazed to see the kotal's 
daughter, whom he detested, with his son, and he cried out, 
" It is the witch ! She must be driven out." 

" But, father," replied the Prince, " she has been always 
very kind to me. Why cannot you bear the sight of her ? " 

The king, however, only grew more angry. " Forget her 
kindness. She will kill you," he cried and then turning to 
the kotal's daughter, he rudely drove her away. " Be off, you 
evil witch. You shall lose your head if in the future you 
ever again thrust your presence upon my son." No repetition 
of the order was necessary, for Malancha, greatly alarmed, 



MALANCHAMALA 113 

quietly slipped out. Nothing was heard of her for the next 
twelve years. But during that time, calamities in quick succes- 
sion fell upon the king and his house. Earthquakes, recurring 
time after time, destroyed the greater part of the palace. 
Diseases seized upon the king's person and undermined his 
vitality, until at last he became almost a living skeleton. 
Chandra had had seven sons, and these died one after 
another, and a thick cloud enveloped the whole kingdom. 
The king attributed all this to the unseen influence of the 
kotal's daughter. 

But one day Malancha came near the palace and prayed 
for its prosperity, and all of a sudden things began to take 
a brighter turn. Fortune once more seemed to smile upon 
the kingdom. The prince's seven sons, who had long 
before been turned into ashes, came to life again. The 
ruined portions of the palace were restored, and the king 
once more enjoyed health and vigour. Chandra ascribed 
all this to Malancha, but he was laughed at by his 
father. 

On a certain day the king went out hunting. Tigers 
waylaid him and his followers, and devoured the latter, 
leaving the former to find his way alone out of the forest. 
He walked on, and with lips parched with thirst, drew near 
a fountain to quench it. There he saw a beautiful and veiled 
lady with a pitcher full of water, and eagerly begged her to 
give him some. His request was granted, and he thus 
poured a blessing on her head : " Whoever you may be, 
mother, you are a light in your father-in-law's house. May 
you be happy." The lady was no other than Malancha, who 
bowed to her father-in-law, put on her head the dust of his 
feet, and expressed in grateful words her happiness in being 
kindly spoken to by him. His feelings then were too strong 
to be restrained, and he wept at the remembrance of the 
cruelties she had received from his hands. He begged her 
to follow him home, and she replied, " Oh, how happy am I 
to-day! I have been recognized by my husband's father. 

I 



114 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

Father, I do not seek the grandeurs of the palace, let me dwell 
in a hut, but permit me to serve you." 

Whereupon the king cried out, " Mother ! foolishly have I 
persecuted you. Forget it, and grace my palace with your 
presence." 

But Malancha excused herself saying that before being 
shut up in the palace she must visit her uncle and aunt, the 
tiger and the tigress, and her friend the malini. It would be 
ungrateful not to tell them how happy the king, her father-in- 
law, had made her. 

To this the king gave his consent. " But return soon," 
he implored her, " and in the meantime I will garnish my 
kingdom in your honour. Bring your uncle and aunt back 
with you." Saying so, he left for home, and Malancha for the 
habitation of the tigers. They were pining at her absence, 
but on seeing her their hearts overflowed with joy. She told 
them of her good fortune, and invited them to her father-in- 
law's. They promised to come with her, and after appointing 
a day for their departure, she sped to the malini's. The poor 
creature had missed her greatly. Fortune had proved unkind 
to her after the departure of her guests, and she had often 
sobbed out their names. At the sight of Malancha, she was 
in a transport of joy, and they embraced each other with 
assurances of lasting friendship. The malini was then 
informed of her guest's good fortune, and asked to accompany 
her to her husband's home. 

Malancha visited the neighbouring palace, deserted and 
partially destroyed, and weeping bitterly in pity, lit seven 
lamps with gJiee and prayed fervently to the powers of heaven 
for the resuscitation of the king, queen, and their seven sons, 
and their restoration to their former grandeur. Her prayers 
were heard, and having completed her good offices there, she 
returned to her country with the tiger, the tigress and the 
malini. But her work was not yet finished. She succeeded 
in making the tank where her mother had drowned herself to 
disgorge her fresh with life and energy, and with her as well 



MALANCHAMALA 115 

as her friends she repaired to her father-in-law's palace and 
was received with loud acclamations as the first wife of her 
husband. The kotal, her father, was also brought back to life. 
In order to make amends for his wrongs, he was given by the 
king half of his kingdom, and he passed his days in great 
happiness. 

Raja Dudhbaran, who had followed Malancha, then took 
his farewell ; but he did not omit making very sincere 
acknowledgments of the manifold benefits she had showered 
upon him. His daughter became sincerely attached to 
Malancha and permitted her to share with her the company of 
her husband. The kotal's daughter, once the object of bitter 
persecution, became the sole mistress of the kingdom, and 
nothing was done without her approval. Not only did the 
royal family enjoy peace and happiness, but the whole kingdom 
resounded with her praise : " Malanchamala, goddess in human 
shape, abide with us for ever and ever." 



IV 

KANCHANMALA 
THE GOLDEN WREATH 

IN the days of yore, when India was governed by Hindu 
chiefs, there were in each kingdom four families occupy- 
ing the highest rank — the king's, the prime minister's, 
the chief merchant's and the head police officer, or 
prefect's. The story we are about to tell concerns the son of 
the chief merchant in a particular kingdom. He was named 
Ruplal,^ and he was generally beloved and admired. His old 
father, anticipating death, thought of settling his son in life, 
and therefore was on the look out for a wife for him. When 
the idea of marriage was haunting the young man's thoughts, 
he one night dreamed of a girl of the colour of gold and with 
hair as black as a dark cloud. The dream so occupied his 
mind on the following morning that he could think of nothing 
else. While out for a walk, and brooding over it in a pensive 
mood, the malini who supplied flowers to his mother and 
sisters met him, and struck by his apparently sad humour, 
asked him the reason ; and on his describing his dream, she 
said that a woman like the one whom he had seen in it was 
to be found in her house, and that she could show her to him 
if he came there. Eagerly he followed her, and she brought 
before him her niece, closely veiled. She showed him the girl's 
hair, and her complexion, by exposing her hands and feet. As 
to her face the malini said that it must remain veiled as long 
as Ruplal would not pledge himself to marry her. 

' The centre of all attraction. 



KANCHANMALA 117 

Ruplal, returning home, described to his father and his 
friends the beauty he had seen in his dream, and said that he 
would never marry any one except the facsimile of his vision. 
The father, though afraid that a girl of that description could 
not be found, sent messengers to see if they were able to find 
one. They came back unsuccessful, and the merchant was in 
despair, when the malini informed him of her niece, whose 
charms, she said, were no less attractive than those of her 
whom his son had dreamed of. 

Ruplal's dream was not a fiction. There was actually in a 
country far off a princess in every particular corresponding to 
the image in his mind. Her name was Kanchanmala, and at 
the very moment he dreamed of her she had also seen him in 
a vision. The next morning she appeared before her father, 
and informed him that a young man named Ruplal, who had 
appeared before her in a dream, was according to the decrees 
of fate, her husband ; and that he must be found out, not only 
to make her happy, but even to preserve her life. The king 
and his ministers were astounded to hear her, and messengers 
were despatched in every direction to find out who and where 
Ruplal was. They crossed seas, rivers and mountains, till at 
last they reached the foot of a banyan tree. Here they rested ; 
when another body of men approached them, and the latter, 
being asked whence and with what object they came, said, 
" For months and months we have been travelling, and are 
fatigued to death. Oh, what a dream of our master's son that 
was ! There may be in the world no such Kanchanmala 
as he dreamed of. Can you, brothers, throw light on the 
matter?" Those addressed exclaimed in surprise, "What do 
you say ? Are you looking for Kanchanmala ? Our princess 
bears that name, and we have been out for months seeking 
for a solution of the mystery. One morning she said to her 
father, our king, that she had dreamt of one Ruplal, and that 
she should die if he were not brought to her. Hence we are 
trying to discover his whereabouts." Both the parties, under- 
standing that their mission was at an end, embraced one 



ii8 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

another and exchanged pictures of Ruplal and Kanchan for 
the satisfaction of their respective masters. 

Ruplal's picture coming into the hands of the king and his 
daughter, the latter recognized it as the true likeness of him 
she loved. Men were accordingly at once sent to the 
merchant, and all the preliminaries being settled, a day was 
fixed for the marriage of the lovers. 

The malini, whose object was to get Ruplal into her 
clutches by having his hand joined to that of her niece, one 
day called on him and expressed surprise that he was going 
to be married to another, and not her niece. To which he 
replied that he had found the girl of his dream, to whom he 
would be bound for life. The malini, however, was not a 
woman to be thus got rid of. She asked Ruplal if he had 
seen his Kanchanmala's picture, and being told that he had 
not seen it himself, but heard of it from every one in the 
house, she was greatly delighted to think that there were 
still opportunities for carrying out her purposes. 

The day came to a close, and at night Ruplal took the 
picture from his father, retired into his room and lay down to 
sleep, keeping it on his bosom. The malini, somehow or 
other, coming to know of it, crept into the room while he was 
immersed in deep sleep, and stole away the picture. Taking 
it home, she ordered her niece to spoil it so that the person 
represented in it might appear blind and crooked. The niece 
was too good a girl to consent, and so the malini at length 
did the mischief herself, and returning to Ruplal's room she 
placed the picture in the same position from which she had 
stolen it, and went away. 

Ruplal, on awakening, uncovered the picture, and holding 
it out to look at it, was greatly surprised and disappointed to 
find in it the representation of an ugly creature. Tears started 
to his eyes, and he cast wistful looks all around in search of 
some one to whom to communicate his thought. The malini 
was at hand, and officiously advised him to abide by his and 
his father's promise to bring the ugly girl home as his bride, 



KANCHANMALA 119 

and at the same time to keep at as great a distance from her 
as possible, for she was a witch, and even a look at her face 
was dangerous. He was also told to blindfold himself at the 
time of marriage, or at any other time that she might be 
within the range of his vision. Poor Ruplal was deceived by 
the wicked woman, and followed her advice, both at the time of 
his marriage and after he had brought his bride home. He 
placed a thick covering over his eyes, which he did not remove 
while in the bridal chamber. He left it the next morning, 
and never afterwards sought the company of his wife, who 
pined away neglected. The old merchant died, and it was 
attributed by Ruplal, at the suggestion of the malini, to his wife's 
evil influence as a witch. A hut was built for the poor girl, 
and there she lived, the wreck of her former self. 

Ruplal after his father's death had to attend to all his 
business, within and without, and so he could no longer keep 
the shade over his eyes. One day when it was removed, the 
wily malini set her niece before him, and he was so taken 
with her beauty that he at once asked for her hand. His suit 
was granted and the marriage fixed. But the event was not 
permitted by heaven to take place. Whatever arrangements 
the malini made in anticipation ended in failure. The priests 
whom she consulted died, the ladies whom she invited lost 
their husbands and sons, and the articles bought were 
consumed of themselves. The malini's garden became a 
wilderness, and she was in want for her daily bread. On 
the other hand Kanchanmala, reconciled to her lot, passed her 
days in works of devotion and in great peace. 

Ruplal's business failed, and he was compelled to think of 
a voyage to foreign countries, whence he might bring such 
goods as would find a profitable sale in his own country. 
Preparations were duly made, and the day of starting was 
announced. The night before, Kanchan managed to enter 
his bedroom to bid him farewell, but he drove her out. The 
morning dawned, and he got into one of the boats ready for 
the voyage. The sails were unfurled, and the rowers plied at 



I20 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

the oars, but the boats did not move. The men asked Rup if 
he had displeased the gods, or left undone some duty enjoined 
by them ; and when he said that there was no fear of that, one 
of the helmsmen asked him if he had taken leave of his wife ; 
and on his saying " No," advised him to return home and do 
so. He agreed to do as advised, and with some of the men 
went again blindfolded to Kanchanmala and said, " Un- 
fortunate girl ! I am about to start on a voyage, and I ask 
you to part with me in good grace. On my return home I will 
present you with a garland of pearls, and gold bracelets." 

" You are my garland of pearls, my invaluable gem," 
Kanchan replied. " Take me with you as your servant." 

" Oh, my men ! Let us be off," cried Ruplal, disregard- 
ing her. 

But the boatmen refused, saying, "We can't be off until 
you get leave from your wife." 

" O wife! consent to my going, and I will fetch vermilion 
for your head," cried Ruplal. 

But Kanchan again replied, "You are my precious 
vermilion. Take me with you to serve you." 

"What is to be done?" shouted Ruplal in anger to his 
men. "Are you sure that the boats won't move because I 
have not taken leave of her ? " 

" Yes, we are sure," they answered. " You, sir, had better 
take her with you." 

No further delay was possible. Kanchan's request was 
granted, but she was placed in an old shattered boat. Rup's 
boats made a speedy voyage, while the one occupied by her 
lagged considerably behind. Her husband, however, could 
not go beyond her sight. 

The malini, in the meantime, burning with jealousy, took 
her niece with her, and ran along the bank of the river by 
which Rup's boats passed and shrieked at every port that of 
the two passengers in them, one was a ghost and the other a 
Petni^ and that they should be avoided. This was done 

' A mischievous female ghost. 



KANCHANMALA 121 

chiefly to prevent Rup from taking any necessaries from the 
ports ; but he had no want of anything, and therefore they 
were passed by. The malini had then recourse to a charm, 
whereby she made the boats dash against a Clmr,^ and Rup 
and the crew sank under water. Kanchan, being a Sati, was 
not only safe herself, but saved her husband and his men from 
a watery grave. The former, however, was under an halluci- 
nation ; he attributed the good office to the malini and her 
niece, though they remained invisible. 

The boats sailed on until a town was reached where a 
Puja - was going on, the object of worship being a goddess 
fond of human flesh and blood. Rup was taken out of his 
boat, selected as the sacrifice, and carried to the place by the 
side of a tank where the offering was to be made. His head 
was cut off and rolled on the ground. Kanchan, who had run 
after him, reached the cruel spot, and sitting by the pool of 
blood, took the head upon her lap and rent the air with her 
lamentations. Her cries reached the ears of Shiva and Durga, 
driving through the air in their chariot, and they in pity 
descended and restored Rup to life. But the wicked malini 
and her niece were still in his mind, as his good angels. 

The boats again set out on their voyage, and reached a 
country where a terrible famine raged. For seven months 
Rup and his men were hardly able to get their food. At last 
Kanchan, obtaining the favour of Annapiirna, ^ managed to 
get the best dishes for her husband and his people, and the 
fool Rup, instead of thanking her, expressed his gratitude to 
his unseen friends the malini and her niece. There is a 
proverb, " Talk of the Devil, and he is sure to be there," 
and it was true in this case. The malini, with her niece, got 
into Kanchan's boat, and cast her into the water to be drowned. 
Rup was then told by the malini to take off the covering from 
his eyes, and this was the first time he had done so since he 
had left home. He beheld a lotus leaf floating, and taking it 

' A sand-bank. - Religious worship. 

' The goddess who supplies men with food. 



122 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

up, he saw on it the true likeness of Kanchan, as he had seen 
her in his dream. The malini at this tore her hair, and her 
niece fell in a swoon. 

Kanchan had seven sisters, as dancing girls at Indra's 
court, and by the falling of the bells that tinkled at their 
ankles they knew that their sister on earth was in danger. 
They at once made their chariot ready, and driving down- 
wards to where Kanchan was struggling with the waves, they 
rescued her, and placing her on the chariot, drove it through 
the air. Rup at that time saw his folly, and reproaching him- 
self for having allowed himself to be so duped by the malini, 
stretched out his hands in the hope of catching Kanchan's 
garment ; and failing to do so, he fell insensible. 

How long the fit lasted we cannot say. But when Ruplal 
came to, it seemed to him as if a hundred years had passed 
over his head. His hair was grey, his skin shrivelled and his 
body shivering with infirmity. In this state he returned home 
and consulted holy men and astrologers as to the religious 
ceremonies to be gone through and the sacrifices to be offered 
for the recovery of his health. They told him that the cause 
of his disease was a look of displeasure cast on him by one of 
the beauties of heaven, and that the only chance of his becom- 
ing his former self was to find some one who loved him so 
much that, fasting for a whole day, she would imprint kiss 
after kiss on the whole of his diseased body. They said also 
that the person doing so would immediately afterwards be 
transformed into a palmyra tree. Now the question was, who 
would do so much for him, at so great a sacrifice. Ruplal 
went to his mother and said, " Mother, I am your son, and 
who can love me more than you ? Take off my disease and 
when you will be turned into a palmyra tree, I will place 
sheets of gold round its foot." 

But Rup's mother replied, " Alas, son ! it is your duty, 
now in my old age, to help me to make pilgrimages. Instead 
of that you want me to be a palmyra tree. This is what I 
never expected of you." 



KANCHANMALA 123 

Rup then went to the malini, and she drove him out> 
disgusted with his loathsome appearance. But her niece 
called him back and promised to free him from his disease. 
She fasted the whole of the next day, and kissed the whole 
of his body, bringing upon herself the doom foretold by 
the wise men. And Rup became once more a young man, 
with his former personal charms. Fortune smiled on him, 
and his business prospered, making him the master of 
immense treasure. But the hand that was showering the 
blessings was unseen. It was that of Kanchan, now in 
heaven. 

After some time, Rup was again called upon to start on 
a voyage. He did so to his advantage, and returned home 
a millionaire. One day, while he was moodily passing by 
the palmyra tree into which the malini's niece had been 
changed, a drop of water fell on his head. He looked up 
and caught a piece of cloth hanging down. It was a part 
of Kanchan's sari. She was seated on the crown of the 
tree, and thence addressed her husband thus, " My husband, 
I am your slave, and I thank you for your kind looks. You 
have made me happy, but I have stood in the way of the 
malini's niece. My sisters thought of coming here to-night 
to restore her to her former self. Now that you have touched 
me they will not come." 

Ruplal, completely staggered at this revelation, sat down 
on the ground quite dazed, with his hands to his head. 
Kanchan, however, assured him that further grief was un- 
necessary, and that she would from that time remain at his 
side, on condition that he would let her have her own way 
at night, and that he would not question her as to her 
movements, however strange they might appear. She then 
promised that in seven days she would give him back the 
malini's niece. After that they went to Rup's house. There 
they spent several days very happily, without any new 
occurrence. But soon afterwards Kanchan one night left 
her husband while he slept, and went off unknown to him. 



124 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

Rup, waking up, missed her and waited for her, feigning 
sleep. When the dawn was about to break she returned, and 
threw herself on the bed. The next night she again went 
out, while her husband pretended to be asleep. She returned 
at midnight and tried to awaken him, but he neither moved 
nor gave any sign of being awake ; and so, three times 
putting the dust of his feet on her head, she again quitted 
the room in tears. Rup ran out of the room by another door, 
and finding his wife in the chariot of heaven that he had 
once seen, he got on to it from behind, unperceived. The 
chariot reached heaven, and Kanchan went into Indra's hall 
and commenced dancing, Rup concealing himself behind a 
pillar and observing what passed. One of those who were 
playing on instruments could not keep time with the dance, 
and the gods and the dancers were very much displeased, 
and Rup, who was an adept in instrumental music, could 
not resist the temptation of moving to the spot, snatching 
away the instrument from the awkward musician, and playing 
on it himself. The scene was then turned into one of 
voluptuous music : tuin tuni turn, went the dhole (drum) 
whang whang whang went the sound of the tanpura (a 
musical instrument supplied with chords), and pat pat pat 
went on the dancers. The fascination that surrounded Rup 
was observed by his wife, and she could not help casting 
looks of love and approval at him. Indra marked this, and 
also the fact of his being a human being, and guessing that 
he was Kanchan's lover, hinted to her that the secret was no 
longer hers. At this she blushed in confusion, and falling 
prostrate before the god, admitted the truth, and prayed that 
she might from that day be excused from attending his court. 
Her prayer was granted, and not only that, but Indra made 
a gift of the chariot which had so long been at her service, 
offering at the same time any other boon she might ask. 
Encouraged thus, she asked the fan in his hand, with the 
object of bringing back the malini's niece to life, for fanning 
with it was known to possess the power of reanimating the 



KAN CHAN MALA 125 

dead. Her prayer was granted, with the caution that the fan 
should not be moved in the wrong way. 

With grateful acknowledgments for the favours received, 
Kanchan left the celestial regions, and in the twinkling of an 
eye reached the terrestrial. She then went to the palmyra 
tree into which the malini's niece had been changed. But 
the tree was not there ; for the wicked malini had by the 
assistance of the evil one changed it into a snake, doomed 
to pass its life in the adjoining tank ; the loving service the 
girl had rendered Rup having stirred up the witch's venom 
against her. The shock was so great for Kanchan and Rup 
that they fell into a swoon. This did not escape the eyes 
of Indra in heaven ; and alighting where they were, he 
ordered his Oirabat ^ to drink up the water of the tank. The 
elephant did his bidding, and a snake with a hooded head 
was seen at the bottom. The god touched it with one of his 
toes and it vanished, leaving in its place the malini's niece, 
in full splendour of beauty. The reptile, however, was alive, 
and walking on its breast to where the witch was, bit her 
on the heel and dragged her before Indra, who at a glance 
turned her into a frog. Justice done, he left the scene, 
blessing his favourite Kanchan and her husband with long- 
life, and ordering that the malini in her changed body should 
ever remain in the custody of the snake, which would 
continually torment her with its fangs, but never swallow 
her up and thus put an end to her sufferings. The god 
advised Kanchan to reward her who had suffered so much 
for Rup's sake by taking her as the co-sharer of his bed. 
The advice was gratefully followed ; and the merchant passed 
his days happily with his two wives, Kanchan of course 
being his sole guide in matters temporal and spiritual. 

1 Indra's favourite elephant. 




V 

SHANKHA 
THE GARLAND OF SHELLS 

■^HERE was in a certain country a merchant with a 
son and a daughter. The former was in due 
course married to a girl in every way suitable ; but 
the latter, being humpbacked, no one consented to 
be tied to her in the bonds of matrimony. In course of time 
the merchant died, leaving his wealth and business to his son, 
Shankha,^ then a young man. The youth, however, was 
solely given up to amusements, and never pursued any 
vocation that might prove profitable. His mother often 
expostulated with him, but in vain. At length, having run 
through the fortune he had inherited, and unable to make 
both ends meet, he left home without the knowledge of his 
own people, in search of adventures. For three years he was 
absent, and his mother and wife fretted away. Separation 
from him was not the only source of their trouble. They 
were extremely poor. Shankha's creditors ousted them from 
their home, and they lived in a hut, the husking of rice for 
others being their chief means of subsistence. 

One day a heron came to the hut and told the mother that 
a prince, named Mohun, was shooting birds on the side of the 
nearest lake, and that he could tell her where her son was. 
She ran to the prince, and hearing that Shankha was on the 
other side of the lake, ran to meet him. Shankha was in a 
reclining posture on the ground, with two flutes lying by him, 

' A conch-shell. 



SHANKHA 127 

and in spite of his mother's solicitations to go home, he ran 
away. But when she bewailed aloud her lot and that of his 
poor wife, Shakti, his heart was melted, and coming to her he 
said, " Mother, I will go to foreign countries on a mercantile 
enterprise as father did. But where am I to get ships and 
goods of merchandise ? " The mother in reply said that she 
had long before buried a gem, got from the head of a snake, 
and the sale of that would enable him to get more than 
enough for his voyage. The proposal was greedily accepted 
by the young man, and fourteen ships, richly laden, were soon 
ready for departure. Religious rites proper for the occasion 
were performed, and after a very pathetic farewell he left his 
country, leaving his wife with a sword and instructions to 
keep it by her at night with the doors shut ; and receiving 
from her in return a garland of shells, which, as she had 
learned from her tutelary goddess, would serve as a talisman. 

The ships unfurled their sails at an auspicious moment, 
and in six months reached a harbour. Here Shankha's men 
anchored and made arrangements for cooking their food, 
while their master retired and engaged himself in the study of 
the Shastras. It soon became night, and he overheard the 
conversation of two very large birds, Bangonia and Bangami, 
gifted with foresight. The latter asked her mate to tell her 
the young merchant's fortune, and Bangoma said that though 
he knew it in full he would reveal only one circumstance, and 
that was that Shankha would soon get a godlike male child. 

"What are you talking about?" said Bangami. 

" The man is far away from home and there is no 
knowing after how long he will return, and yet you foretell 
the speedy birth of his son." 

" There is a gigantic swan close by, called Manik," replied 
Bangoma, " and he, if asked, will take the man hence to his 
house in a few minutes ; and thus he may remain with his 
wife for a time." 

Shankha left his study and called on Manik to do him 
this service. The swan took him gladly on its back and in 



128 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

twenty minutes dropped him in front of his house. He called 
to his wife, who, startled at his sudden appearance, opened the 
door of her room and joyfully received him. Together they 
passed the night, and at dawn, communicating to the girl the 
motive and means of so sudden a return, he once more got on 
the back of the bird and departed. On the way Manik spoke 
thus to him : " Your wife will bear you a godlike child, but 
great afflictions are in store for her. Unlimited will be her 
sufferings during your absence. Leave the garland of shells 
with me, or you will lose it to your subsequent undoing." 

Shankha would not part with it as it was very dear to him 
as his wife's gift, and the bird, instead of pressing him further, 
reached the ships, and placing him in one of those, his own 
ship, left him with the assurance that as soon as he should 
utter the name " Manik," the bearer of it would appear before 
him, no matter how far away he might be. The ships were 
launched the next morning, and prosperous gales drove them 
onwards. 

Let us now have a peep into the house of Shankha's 
mother, and see what was going on there on the morning 
succeeding his visit to his wife. His sister, getting up early 
and sweeping the yard, saw shoe-marks leading up to Shakti's 
door, which at once produced in her the suspicion that 
the latter had during the previous night received a lover. 
Knocking at the door, and having it opened, she saw a candle 
burning. This confirmed her suspicions, and in very oppro- 
brious terms she abused Shakti, and roused her mother and 
the whole neighbourhood with outcries that rent the air. 
Quickly a conclave of the dames and damsels, most of whom 
delighted in scandals, took place, and mercilessly Shakti's 
character was torn to shreds. All except the girl's mother-in- 
law voted that she should be turned out into the streets, but 
that old lady, more mercifully disposed, decided that she 
should be kept at home, but under severe restraint. From 
this time the girl's sufferings were very great. She was not 
allowed sufficient food, nor any clothing save tattered 



SHANKHA 129 

garments, and to crown all she regularly received daily a 
number of lashes from her sister-in-law. But she bore all 
this with patience. The tide of public opinion gradually 
became more favourable, the more so when she gave out the 
circumstances accounting for the shoe-marks and the burning 
candle. But the humpbacked wretch, her tormentor, per- 
secuted her the more until one day in a fury the latter turned 
upon her, and kicked her out of the house. Trembling, she 
fled away, not knowing where to go. Her tears rolled down 
in torrents, and her sobs almost choked her. 

Her mother-in-law too was in despair. The poor woman, 
heart-broken at her daughter-in-law's misfortune and the 
cruelties inflicted on her by her daughter, was weighed down 
by griefs, and always cried for the return of her son. 

In the meantime Shakti plodded on her way through 
woods, over mountains and across rivers, and after seven 
months reached the skirts of a solitary desert, so tired that 
she could no longer move an inch forward. She fell down 
and remained insensible for seven days and nights till she 
was awakened by the footsteps of bears and tigers, kindly 
ministering to her. They brought her their own food, which 
she did not touch, but their care and their companionship 
rendered her some solace, and she remained with them for 
some time. One morning, before dawn, a wood-cutter 
happened to come near her, and ravished at her unusual 
beauty, thought her to be the goddess of the woods, and with 
clasped hands begged to be told if she wanted anything of 
him. She replied that she only wanted him to make a hut 
for her. The wood-cutter at once consented, and a hut in a 
short time was built, but when he proposed to fetch some 
money for her, she borrowed from him his bill-hook, and cut a 
branch of a sandal tree that stood by, and gave it to him 
with the instruction that he should sell it to the first bidder, 
taking whatever was off"ered as the price. It was arranged 
also that the product of the sale should be shown her. The 
wood-cutter went away with the branch, and for weeks 

K 



130 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

frequented palaces, thronged marts and ports, in search of a 
buyer. But no success attended his endeavours, and so his 
travels continued. 

In the meantime, his wife was very uneasy at his absence. 
One day she started with the object of tracking him, and 
searched the whole of the district in which she lived, ultimately 
reaching Shakti's hut. Struck by her splendid appearance, 
she bowed down in reverence. But her feelings underwent 
a sudden change when she discovered the marks of her 
husband's hands on the mud plaster on the bamboo fencing 
of the hut. She suspected that the girl before her was his 
mistress. His late absent-mindedness and hurry to leave 
home confirmed her suspicions, and she poured forth on her 
suspected rival a torrent of abuses. She noticed, too, that 
the girl before her was about to become a mother, and 
attributed it to her liaison with the wood-cutter. 

Seized with jealousy, the wood-cutter's wife went to a 
place at some distance, where her friend, a witch, lived, her 
employment being that of a midwife. Her object was to 
commend the services of the latter to Shakti, so that she 
might destroy by charms the infant about to be born. They 
both came to the hut and saw in it a new-born babe of 
unrivalled beauty lying on its mother's bosom, and in the 
courtyard heaps of gold mohurs. Seizing these and the 
child, they left the spot with the greatest possible speed. The 
mother, who had been in a swoon, suddenly awoke, and not 
finding her child, ran like a maddened tigress in search of it, 
bewailing her lot thus, "O Bidhi, what have I done to offend 
thee ? I never snatched away a child from its mother's bosom 
or a calf from the cow that suckled it. I never went so far as 
to separate a fruit from its tree, or to plunder a bird's nest of 
its offspring." 

Nature sympathized with her ; the earth shook, stars fell 
down from the firmament, and the beasts ran before her as if 
to help her find out the missing child. She at last reached 
the seashore and fell down faint, exclaiming, " O gods ! for 



SHANKHA 131 

what sin have I been thus punished ? Why are you so cruel ? 
You have separated me from my husband and home, and 
behold now I am the most wretched of my sex ! O Bidhata- 
ptirush/ why didst thou unexpectedly give me a child, and 
hast now robbed me of it ? " 

While her cries were rending the air, her husband's 
garland of shells suddenly fell into the sea ; and the witch of 
a midwife, with the wood-cutter's wife, reached the palace 
where the queen, who had for some time been in labour and 
given birth to a dead child, was herself dead. The midwife 
on entering the room of confinement and finding how matters 
stood, made the wood-cutter's wife put on the Rani's sari, 
and ordered her to play the august lady's part by taking into 
her breast Shakti's baby, who was substituted for the still- 
born child of the king. The midwife then ran to him and 
announced the birth of an heir, and the whole palace 
resounded with the beat of drums and the blowing of trumpets. 
The king entered the room of confinement and feasted his 
eyes with the sight of the boy. 

The wood-cutter's wife admirably acquitted herself as the 
queen. No one detected her. The babe thrived and was 
named Neelmanik. With his growth, grew the wealth and 
prosperity of his reputed father. At length, he was put into 
the pathsala in the palace, and his progress in learning far 
surpassed that of boys of the same age. His intelligence was 
so remarkable that the king invited him to his durbar, to take 
part in its discussions. 

Going back over the past twelve years, we find the garland 
of shells fallen from Shankha's neck and carried by the waves 
to Manik's nest near the shore, where his mate hid it. The 
loss of the garland produced consequences very unfavourable 
for Shakti. No longer under its talismanic power, her 
husband quite forgot her, and pursued his business without 
for a moment remembering that he had left at home his spouse, 
as loving and beautiful as any wife could ever be. Manik, 

' Providence. 



132 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

one day playing with its young ones, discovered the garland, 
and was very much afflicted at the thought that the loss of it 
entailed such sorrow and misery on Shakti. The garland, 
however, which was then given by the gods the power of 
speech, consoled the bird saying, " Neelmanik lives in such 
and such a place on the right bank of the Nerbudda. Take 
me to him, and you will be glad at the result." 

The swan with its family went to the place and built a 
nest on a banyan tree. The wreath was with them, and in 
a tussle between the young ones it fell down, just as Prince 
Neel was riding by. Its sight attracted him, and dazzled by 
its beauty, he had it picked up by one of his attendants, and 
wore it round his neck. 

We left Shakti lying faint on the seashore. The dashing 
of the waves roused her, and on opening her eyes she beheld 
the sea goddess, who embraced her and carried her to the 
subterranean regions. She remained there for twelve years ; 
and knew no peace, as her heart was torn with the memory of 
her husband and her son. One day the goddess, taking pity 
on her, told her to leave her and go, with the winds to guide 
her, towards the north, where she would find both her loved 
ones. The girl, beside herself with joy, bowed to the 
goddess, and being taken to the land, went northwards as 
directed. 

The reader has surely not forgotten the wood-cutter sent by 
Shakti to sell the piece of sandal-wood she had given him. 
He had gone from place to place in search of a purchaser, but 
had found no one willing to buy it. Twelve years passed in 
this way, and at length he met in a harbour a rich merchant 
with fourteen ships, richly laden. He accosted the latter very 
respectfully ; asked him if he would buy the sandal-wood, and 
held it out for inspection. The merchant, who was none else 
but Shankha, took it in his hand, and what was his surprise to 
find in it the first letter of his wife's name, inscribed with her 
own hands ! The letter reawakened his memory, which had 
so long lain dormant, and he was so worked on by the old 



SHANKHA 133 

associations it revived, as to lose all control over himself and 
roll on the ground, uttering words of bitter lamentation. 
Having recovered a little, he offered the wood-cutter anything, 
however precious, that he might ask, if only he would tell him 
from whom he had got the wood. And the wood-cutter, 
telling him every particular with regard to it, was taken into 
one of the ships, to show the way back to Shakti's hut. 

Shakti in the meantime was assiduous in her search after 
her lost treasures. She left behind her city after city, kingdom 
after kingdom, till by some evil influence she could not account 
for, she was led back into the kingdom where the hut she had 
lived in stood. She reached it at night, and reposed on the 
embankment of a tank near the palace. At dawn the wood- 
cutter's wife who was personating the queen, attended by 
her maidservants, came to the tank for a bath, and she was 
surprised to see Shakti there, in the ravishing splendour of 
her charms. At first the pseudo-queen could not recognize 
her whom she saw after twelve long years ; but on closer 
inspection she found that the form before her was that of the 
girl whose child she had taken away. She then thought 
within herself, " Ah ! she whom I persecuted twelve years ago 
is come back, surely to take revenge. She was then in rags, 
but now she is dressed like a princess. I must ruin her." 
After this soliloquy, she bade her servants kill the lady, 
alleging that with her beauty she might be her successful 
rival if perchance the king saw her. The maid-servants laid 
hold of Shakti by the hair, despoiled her of her garments and 
ornaments, and threw her into a neighbouring cave, the mouth 
of which they shut with a large flagstone. 

Just then the sounds of Danka ' reverberated through the 
precincts of the palace, and soldiers hurried to the landing 
place on the bank of the river to see if any belligerent power 
had made its appearance. And when they found that the 
Danka was being beaten from ships belonging to a mere 
merchant, they became angry at the effrontery, and seizing the 

1 A drum announcing the visit of a man of consequence. 



134 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

vessels, took their owner bound in chains to the court. The 
king ordered the confiscation of the ships with their goods, 
and the close captivity of the merchant, who was no other 
than our old acquaintance, Shankha. 

The prisoner was passing through the palace gate into his 
prison, when he saw the heir apparent with the very garland 
of shells that he had lost. He told the kotal who had him 
in charge that the royal youth was none other than his son, 
and that he wore round his neck what had belonged to him 
alone. The kotal could not maintain his gravity at what he 
heard, and so loud was the derision the captive's words gave 
rise to, that most of the nobles in the court went there to see 
what was the matter. Shankha, instead of being cowed down 
by their presence, maintained his point ; and to punish his 
impertinence, a thousand swords were raised over his head, 
whereupon he cried out, " Kill me, but with my last breath I 
will proclaim that that boy is my son." Nobody listened to 
him, and he was led into the prison. 

The occurrence produced a strange effect on Prince Neel's 
mind. He left the court in ill humour, and for three days he 
was distraught. He shunned appearing in public at the 
court, and one day calling in his friends, the prime minister's 
and the kotal's sons, proposed a bath in the neighbouring tank, 
which was near the one in which Shakti was lying engulfed. 
The friends could not say " no," and with them Neel went to 
the bathing place. The bath having refreshed him, he 
proposed to wait there a little while, and the three friends sat 
on the very stone under which the prince's mother, unknown 
to him, lay. The mere touch of the stone refreshed him a 
great deal, but a strange feeling, the nature of which he could 
not determine, seized him, and he fell insensible. Shakti 
was conscious of the nearness of her son and she said, " Who 
touches the stone over me ? My heart is lightened. I was 
robbed of my darling while asleep, something tells me that I 
shall soon have him in my arms again." She then cried out, 
and her cry caught the ear of Neel's friends, who were 



SHANKHA 135 

confounded to hear it come from underneath the stone. Again 
the cry was, " O my moon ! now that after twelve years 
you are near me, let me embrace you." 

Neel's companions were at a loss to solve the mystery. 
That a voice could be heard from under the ground, and that 
a stranger, a merchant, claimed their prince as his son, were 
puzzles to them ; and having by the most assiduous attentions 
roused Neel, they communicated to him the strange words 
they had heard, and at his request removed the stone. A 
lady of great beauty was then visible, and something told Neel 
that it was his mother. He addressed his friends thus, 
" Brothers, while lying on the stone I dreamed that I was 
reposing on my mother's breast, and she whom I saw in my 
dream is the very lady before us. She must be my mother, 
and I will never leave her." 

His friends tried to make him believe that he was being 
deluded, and led him into the palace, for the solution of the 
riddle by the queen. Neel fell at her feet, and asked her if she 
was in reality his mother, but she, with a great fear at her 
heart, said, "Neel, what do you say? What nonsense are 
you talking? " 

" Mother, tell me, as if you were standing before your 
tutelary deity, whether you bore me in your womb, or that 
lady near the tank did so," Neel adjured her. The wood- 
cutter's wife, ostensibly the queen, roared forth — " Wretch, 
were you born in a hovel, and thence brought to sit on a 
throne ? A witch has taken possession of you. Ho ! who is 
there, get a rojha ^ so that my son may be freed from the evil 
influence under which he seems to be." Neel at this harangue 
left the woman's presence, to think out what his best course was. 
The rumour had got abroad that he had been claimed as her 
son by a witch ; and this so cut him to the quick as to compel 
him to seek solitude, for he could not bear public criticism on a 
point so near his heart. One day he saw his friend, the prime 
minister's son, and consulted him on the difficult question. 

^ An exorcist. 



136 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

After much cogitation, the prime minister's son pointed out 
what seemed to be a very plausible way. He suggested that 
the method whereby the real mother could be found out was 
to try the range of the milk which the two claimants had in 
their breasts ; and she whose milk, being propelled by 
pressure from a particular distance, would reach his mouth, 
should have her claims of maternity acknowledged by him. 

Neel at first jumped at this suggestion, but afterwards 
doubted it, and told his friend that though what he had said 
would be a very good test, it was not possible. For no 
mother could be expected to have milk for her child after the 
lapse of so many years since its birth, and even if she had, no 
drop of it could pass over a considerable distance. At this, 
his friend replied that prayers to the gods can make impossi- 
bilities possible. 

Neel the next morning approached the king, who was 
already aware of the witch's claim, which he thought foolish, 
and asked him to hold the proposed test before his full court. 
The king agreed ; and the matter became public. The wood- 
cutter's wife heard it, and went to her friend, the midwife, for 
consultation, who told her not to flinch, but to eat Shingi fish, 
and other kinds of food that generated in the breasts a 
copious supply of milk. The sham queen took her friend's 
advice. 

The next morning the court assembled, and the yard of 
the palace became quickly crowded. The wood-cutter's wife 
made a grand appearance befitting a queen ; while Shakti was 
clad in rags. Then the prime minister's son said aloud, " O 
most august assembly of the best in the land ! and O queen ! 
and the lady in apparent poverty ! Prince Neel has one mother 
to be sure, and that one must have her rights." 

Shakti and the wood-cutter's wife were made to stand 
twelve yards off from Neel. The false mother tried the test, 
and taking different positions, standing, kneeling or sitting, 
she pressed out her milk, which did not pass even half the 
distance. The assembly cried out, "Stop, queen, stop. It is 



SHANKHA 137 

an impossibility that you are trying, the trial itself is absurd 
and foolish." Being thus addressed, the wood-cutter's wife 
stood aside, mortified and annoyed. 

Shakti then pressed her breasts, and thirty-two times the 
milk flew out and touched the prince's lips. The king 
trembled on his throne, fearing that he should lose his son, 
who springing from his seat, threw himself into the close 
embrace of his real mother ; and the musicians present played 
stirring notes in congratulation. The woman who had so 
long passed as his mother was looked upon by him with 
scorn, and she, in order to take her last hit at Shakti, required 
her to name the boy's father. On this demand, the lady 
became embarrassed, for on the night of her husband's last 
return to her, he had strictly enjoined her to keep the circum- 
stances of Neel's birth a secret from every one but his 
neighbours. She cast anxious looks all round, whereupon a 
friend stepped in to help her. The swan, Manik, flew to the 
spot, and in the hearing of the king, nobles, and the mob 
assembled, related the history of Neel's birth, and of the 
garland of shells. Speechless with wonder, the king, with his 
attendants, ran into the prison and brought Shankhaout, with 
apologies for having wronged him. Great honours were con- 
ferred on him, and the courtiers attended on him and did 
him honour. Shakti before this had been taken into the 
palace. She had not heard of her husband's imprisonment or 
release, nor of his arrival in the kingdom. So she was very 
disconsolate on his account. She would neither eat nor drink, 
but continued crying, until her son appeared before her with 
the joyful tidings that his father was under the same roof with 
her. Beside herself with delight, she urged the boy to take 
her to his father, and when the long-separated couple met, they 
fell upon each other's necks and shed hot tears of joy. 

They extorted a full confession from the wood-cutter's wife, 
and expelled her and the wicked midwife, her accomplice, 
from the palace. The former returned to her house in the 
forest ; but what became of the latter is not known. Shankha 



138 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

was pressed by the king to reside permanently with his family 
in the kingdom, and his son was nominated heir to the throne. 
The merchant, however, left the country for the purpose of 
going to his own home to see what had become of his mother 
and sister. He reached there in safety, but what he saw 
almost broke his heart. The poor mother was a street beggar, 
while her humpbacked daughter was in like plight. The 
merchant took his mother along with him to his new country, 
but his sister, unwilling to accompany him, was reluctantly 
left behind to pursue her wicked courses which we have been 
told soon came to a close, owing to her being captured by an 
alligator while taking a swim in the very lake at the side of 
which their mother had once reclaimed her son. 

Shankha returned to his family and his friend the king, 
and passed his days as happily as possible. Through his 
influence the wood-cutter was made a police officer of rank ; 
and Manik the swan with his mate and young ones was a 
highly esteemed resident of the palace. 



PART III 
I 

PRINCESS KALABUTTI 

THERE was once a Raja who had seven wives. Their 
names were Burra, the eldest ; Meja, the second ; 
Seja, the third ; Nau, the fourth ; Konai, the extra 
one ; Dua ; and Chhota, the youngest. Dua means 
a woman despised by her husband, and the Rani so called was 
the eyesore of the Raja. 

The Raja was a mighty potentate, dwelling in a vast palace, 
and possessing innumerable elephants and horses, and an 
inexhaustible treasury of gems and gold niohurs. In fact he 
had everything that the heart of man could desire. The palace 
was full of people, among whom were his ministers, body- 
guards, and soldiers. But he was not happy. All his Ranis 
had proved barren, and this he believed to be a calamity that 
betokened the displeasure of Heaven. 

At length, on an auspicious day, a Sanyasi met the Ranis 
at their bathing ghat, and gave the Rani-in-chief, or the Burra 
Rani, a certain root, telling her that on returning home she 
must make a paste of it. She was then instructed to dissolve 
the paste in water, and having prepared the mixture, to drink 
a portion of it herself, distributing the remainder among the 
other Ranis. This, the Sanyasi said, would of a certainty 
change their barrenness into the blessed state of motherhood. 

Language fails to describe the joy of the Ranis at this 
communication, and they hastened home in an ecstasy of 
delight. Fate, however, prevented them from doing the 



I40 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

Sanyasi's bidding at once. Certain pressing domestic duties 
had first to be performed. The eldest Rani had to cook rice, 
the second to prepare the vegetables, the third to make the 
different curries, the fourth to carry water into the kitchen, the 
fifth to act as the general assistant, the sixth, or the Dua Rani 
to grind spices, and the Chhota Rani to scale and cut the fish 
for the frying pan. Though busy with her duties, the Burra 
Rani was anxiously awaiting an opportunity of carrying out 
the Sanyasi's instructions, and when the time came she 
directed Dua Rani to prepare the paste. Dua Rani quickly 
made the required preparation, and eagerly swallowing a 
portion of it, took the remainder to the Burra Rani on a silver 
plate under cover of a gold cup. The Burra Rani took off 
the cover, quaffed a good quantity of the draught, and passed 
it to the second Rani. She took her share, and made over 
the residue to Seja Rani, who after doing justice to her own 
demands, gave what was left to Konai Rani. Very little now 
remained in the basin, and she could not help swallowing the 
whole of it. Nau, the fourth Rani, came in at this juncture, 
and was naturally much chagrined when she found nothing in 
the plate but the sediments. These, however, she utilized, and 
going to Chhota Rani, who had just then finished preparing 
the fish, thus exclaimed in sympathy — " Ah ! wretched woman, 
you have not availed yourself of the preparation of the root ; 
make haste, go quickly, and see how much of it is left." Poor 
Chhota Rani in great anguish ran to the spot, and bitter was 
her disappointment when she found nothing left for her. She 
fell to the ground, and rolled over and over in a paroxysm of 
grief. The other Ranis drew near, but what consolation could 
they offer? They blamed one another for having been so 
unmindful of their sister. Nau Rani, cleverer and seemingly 
more sympathetic than the others, said to Chhota Rani, 
" Come, sister, if there be any small fraction of the root left on 
the stone on which it was ground, I will mix it with water for 
you. This will, if it please God, make you the mother of a 
bright and beautiful child." To make the best of a bad case 




PRINCESS KALABUTTI 



PRINCESS KALABUTTI 141 

Chhota Rani did as advised. Then they both went to draw 
water, leaving the other Ranis to talk over the incidents of 
the day. 

After the lapse of ten months and ten days, each of the 
Ranis brought forth her offspring. Wonder of wonders ! 
Nau Rani and Chhota Rani, respectively, gave birth to an 
owl and a monkey, while the other Ranis were each blessed 
with sons as charming in appearance as the moon. 

The square in front of the apartments of the more fortunate 
mothers resounded with the beating of drums and trumpets, 
while there Avas nothing but lamentation in the quarters of 
Nau and Chhota Rani. The Ranis who had given birth 
to sons were escorted into the palace by their husband and 
his gorgeous retinue, while nobody deigned to notice the 
mothers of the monkey and the owl. 

After a few days Nau Rani was made to work as a menial 
in the Raja's zoological establishment, and Chhota Rani was 
degraded to the rank of those who made and gathered cow- 
dung cakes for the fuel required in the royal household. Thus 
their days passed in great sorrow and distress. 

In course of time the five princes grew up into handsome 
young men. The monkey and the owl, too, grew proportion- 
ately. The princes were named Hiyarajpiitra, Manikyajputra, 
Motivajpiitra, Shankharajpittra, and Kanchanrajpntj'a, the 
first parts of their names respectively meaning Diamond, 
Precious Jewel on the Cobra's head, Pearl, Conch, and Gold. 
The name of the owl was Bhootooni and that of the monkey 
Bood/iJi. 

The five princes used to ride on horses as speedy of motion 
as birds, accompanied by soldiers as their bodyguards, while 
Bhootoom and Boodhu passed their days on the Bakul tree 
near the hut occupied in common by their mothers. 

The princes as they grew older became very cruel and 
oppressive. Not content with beating the people, they even 
at pleasure cut off their heads. The voice of discontent was 
loud everywhere. Bhootoom and Boodhu diverted themselves 



142 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

by accompanying their mothers to the places where they 
worked, and assisting them. Boodhu collected cow-dung 
cakes for his mother, and Bhootoom lightened the toil of his 
mother by feeding the fledglings in the Zoo. Their attentions 
to their mothers did not stop here. When these ladies 
suffered greatly for want of the means of subsistence, Boodhu 
brought them delicious fruits of every description. Bhootoom, 
not to be outdone, brought in his beak a plentiful supply of 
betel-nuts. Thus the two discarded Ranis passed their days 
in sad privation and distress, only relieved by the devotion of 
the monkey and the owl, their children. 

One day the princes rode on their fleet horses towards the 
menagerie. On their way they saw the monkey and the owl 
on the bakul tree, and said to their bodyguards, " Lay hold 
of the owl and the monkey, and bring them to us. We will 
keep them with us." On this, the attendants cast a net round 
the tree, and Bhootoom and Boodhu, unable to break through 
it, were caught and were taken to the palace, each in a cage ; 
the princes being entirely ignorant of their connection with 
their captives. 

Their mothers, on returning home from their work, found 
Bhootoom and Boodhu absent, and fearing some mishap, they 
threw themselves on the ground and rent the air with their 
cries. 

On coming to the palace, Bhootoom and Boodhu were 
speechless with wonder at what they saw. There were spacious 
halls, elephants, horses, soldiers, sentinels, and many other 
astonishing things. They were greatly pleased, and thought 
thus : " Why do our mothers live in the hut? Why can't they 
and we live here together?" They then gave expression to 
their thoughts, and addressing the princes, said, " O princes, 
our brothers, you have brought us here, but why is it that you 
do not do the same with our mothers ? " 

The princes were astonished to find them talking like 
human beings, but they replied, " Tell us where your mothers 
are, and we will have them fetched into the Zoo, where they 



PRINCESS KALABUTTI 143 

will be well cared for." " My mother is a menial in the king's 
Zoo," answered Bhootoom. Boodhu also spoke of his mother 
as a servant whose duty it was to collect cow-dung cakes. At 
this the princes burst into a laugh, and said, " Is it possible 
for a monkey or an owl to be the offspring of a human being ? " 
It was no wonder that they said this, for they did not know 
the sad history of Nau and Chhota Rani. But one of their 
attendants said, " O princes, what you think impossible has 
actually happened. Besides your mothers there were two 
Ranis, one of whom gave birth to this owl, and the other to 
this monkey. And they have both been disgraced and turned 
out of the palace." 

Thereupon a great loathing seized the princes, and calling 
out " Shame ! shame ! " they kicked at the cages, and told 
their men to drive away the owl and the monkey. Then for 
recreation's sake they went out for a ride. 

Now it was from this incident that Bhootoom and Boodhu 
learned that they were of royal parentage, and that their 
mothers were not originally menials. Boodhu said to Bhoo- 
toom, " Brother, the best thing for us now is to see our father. 
Let us go to him." At once Bhootoom agreed, and they set 
out together towards the palace. 

Meanwhile the five Ranis, seated on a silver khat (bed), 
were engaged in making chains of gold for their foreheads, 
when a maidservant burst into their presence and said, 
" Your majesties, a boat, with its forepart shaped like the head 
of a parrot, is lying at the landing ghat. Its rudders are of 
silver, and the helm is cut from a diamond ; and a girl with 
hair of the colour of a dark cloud, and complexion as fair and 
bright as the colour of a ktmch^ is seated inside, talking to a 
parrot of gold." 

The curiosity of the Ranis being excited to the highest 
pitch, they proceeded at once to obtain a sight of the wonderful 
maiden. The boat had unfurled its sails, but it was still near 
enough for the Ranis to address its occupant. 

■■ An Indian seed ; bright red, with a black tip. 



144 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

" O damsel of kunch-like colour and hair of cloudy hue," 
they addressed her, " will you not part with some of the flowers 
of the lustrous pearl you are carrying ? " 

But the maiden answered, " What is this of the flowers of 
pearl ? They are far from here, and your sons, if they would 
possess them, must cross the red river, free the three witches 
who guard the king, and come to Kolabuttipur." As the boat 
disappeared, each of the Ranis thought in her heart that she 
would send her son to win the hand of this beautiful princess, 
with all her wealth. 

The maiden, who could read their hearts, said in reply, 
" Princess Kalabutti, of kunch-like colour, hails your sons to 
her kingdom. If any one of them can make himself master of 
the flowers of pearl, she shall be his." 

After this the Ranis went home, and sent for their husband 
and their sons, telling them everything that had transpired 
between them and the Princess Kalabutti. On this the Raja 
at once ordered the Royal Mayiirpankhis, boats made in the 
shape of a peacock, to be fitted out. The princes should set 
sail in them in quest of the pearl flowers. 

The preparations for the princes to begin their voyage 
having been completed, the niay2trpankhis were launched, 
each with a prince and his retinue on board. The Raja was 
present, and Bhootoom and Boodhu, who had meanwhile 
revealed their identity to him, were with him. They asked 
their father to order niayiirpankhis for them also ; but the 
poor Raja's tongue was tied by the presence of the five Ranis 
standing near. They forced him away into the palace without, 
however, omitting to give the owl and the monkey a number 
of slaps for what they considered their impertinence. 

Bhootoom and Boodhu were resolved to follow the princes, 
and they went off to apply to a carpenter for a maytirpaiikhi. 
They had, however, been already forestalled by their mothers, 
who were intent on sending their offspring on the expedition. 
As an apology for a boat, each made a canoe of a betel-nut 
tree, and putting some Diirba grass, paddy and cowries in it, 



PRINCESS KALABUTTI 145 

launched it on the river along which the princes had passed, 
the durba, the paddy, and shells being considered emblems 
of good luck. As an additional security for success they 
marked each canoe with spots of vermilion, and anxiously 
waited for the owl and the monkey. On returning from the 
carpenter's they saw the preparations made by their mothers, 
gladly availed themselves of them, and set out on their 
voyage. 

The princes had meanwhile reached the kingdoms of the 
three witches mentioned by Kalabutti, and were, with all their 
retinue, at once seized by three old men who stood as 
sentinels, put into a gunny-bag, and taken to the witches, 
who regaled themselves on the captives for three successive 
evenings. But by a miracle the princes lost neither their 
lives nor their consciousness. One night, though confined 
within the walls of the stomachs of the witches, they talked to 
one another thus, when their devourers were asleep, " O 
brothers, we shall have to remain buried within these infernal 
creatures. No more shall we see our parents." While they 
were in this state of despair the owl and the monkey, having 
finished the first stage of their voyage, reached the accursed 
shore. No violence was done to them, and coming where the 
old women lay snoring, they heard what the princes said. 
Boodhu thought of a clever plan to save them. He extended 
his tail, which they eagerly laid hold of, and dragged them 
out through the nostrils of the witches, whom they forthwith 
despatched with the swords put into their hands by Bhootoom. 
Thus were not only the princes saved, but all their attendants 
also ; and the niayiirpankhis were again set afloat. But of 
poor Bhootoom and Boodhu the ungrateful princes took no 
further notice. The Rubicon, however, was not yet passed. 
There still remained the expansive and boisterous waters of 
the red river to be crossed. The current carried the boats far 
out into the adjacent sea, at the mercy of which the princes 
remained for seven days in fear of instant death. It was then 
in utter helplessness that they exclaimed, " Oh, for Bhootoom 

L 



146 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

and Boodhu ! Were they here they could save us." Their 
cry was immediately answered, Bhootoom and Boodhu seem- 
ing to fall from the skies to their rescue. They tied their 
canoes to the side of one of the gorgeous nmyurpankhis, and 
told the boatmen to sail northwards. Thus the princes were 
brought into a river safe for navigation, and were saved, but 
their ungrateful and wicked propensities still remained, and 
they callously ordered their men to throw the owl and the 
monkey into the water. 

But the princes had yet another lesson to learn. Another 
disaster soon befell them, the mayiirpankhis with their 
passengers and crews sinking to the bottom of the river. 
Some time afterwards Bhootoom and Boodhu happened to 
arrive there, and the latter told the former that he suspected 
some calamity had happened to the princes. Bhootoom said 
in disgust, " Speak no more of them. Let them go to the 
dogs." But Boodhu reproached him. "Shame, shame, 
brother," he said, " that can never be. I must dive under the 
water and rescue them. If you are afraid to do so, you must 
still help me. I will tie this rope round my waist, do you 
hold one end of it, and remain on the land. Do not pull it 
until you feel a jerk." Suiting the action to the word, Boodhu 
gave Bhootoom the end of the rope and dived under the 
water. Touching the bottom he found a way downwards into 
the earth beneath. Pursuing it he at length reached a palace, 
grand though deserted. There was only one woman, about a 
hundred years old, in sight. She was working at a kantha, 
which she threw at him when she saw him. Whereupon 
thousands and thousands of sepoys instantaneously burst 
into view. They put chains upon him, carried him into the 
innermost recesses of the palace, and confined him in a dark 
room where many voices accosted him and asked help of him. 
These were the voices of the princes and their followers. 
Boodhu understood what was required of him and had 
recourse to a stratagem. Next day he pretended to be dead 
and was thrown out of the room as such. 



PRINCESS KALABUTTI 147 

As soon, however, as he found that the coast was clear he 
got up and began inspecting the different apartments of the 
palace ; and lo ! on reaching the third story he saw the 
damsel with hair of cloudy colour who had visited his father's 
capital, and whom the princes were so eager to discover. He 
approached her from behind, and overheard her thus lament- 
ing in the ears of her golden parrot, "Ah, parrot of gold, 
ineffectual has been my voyage in the boat with silver oars, 
since no one has come after me." While she was thus 
absorbed in her gloomy thoughts the monkey stole away the 
flowers of pearl bedecking the knot of her hair. He was not, 
however, quick enough to escape the eyes of the parrot, which 
raised the alarm, crying out, " Princess Kalabutti, thy flowers 
of pearl are in the hands of him whose bride thou art destined 
to be." The girl looked back in great excitement, and finding 
the monkey behind her, fell to the ground, weeping. But 
knowing that she was decreed by fate to wed him who came 
to her having safely passed through the red river, the king- 
doms of the three witches, and the deep dungeon in her 
palace, she reconciled herself to her lot, cast the nuptial 
wreath round the monkey's neck, and swore eternal fealty to 
him. He asked her to release the princes and follow him. to 
his country. She agreed, but said that, as fated, she could 
not be taken out save in a casket of gold. Boodhu adopted 
the proposed means, and after many fresh adventures, together 
with his bride in the casket, the princes and their retinue, 
including the boatmen and the old woman's kantha, finally 
reached the bottom of the river in which the mayttrpankhis 
had sunk. Bhootoom, who had been meanwhile waiting 
patiently above ground, at last felt a strain on the rope he 
held, and dragged up Boodhu with his companions. The 
homeward voyage was begun, and the boats sped merrily 
onwards. One day the monkey was caught opening the 
casket and whispering to some one inside. The suspicions 
of the princes were roused, and they threw him, with the 
kantha wrapped round his body, into the water ; at the same 



148 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

time hitting the owl, seated on one of the masts, with an 
arrow, wishing him a watery grave. The casket was then 
opened, and the coveted damsel came out. Enraptured with 
the sight, each of the princes asked her if she would be his, 
and she replied that none could be her lord but he who was 
in possession of the flowers of pearl. The princes well under- 
stood her, and kept her as a prisoner. 

The voyage came to an end, and the princes with Kala- 
butti were cordially received at the palace. The Ranis asked 
her to which of them she would give her hand, and she said 
that she would speak out her mind after a month — the period 
she had vowed to remain silent on the subject. Her word 
was accepted, and the princes were forced to curb their 
impatience. 

In the midst of the rejoicings attending the apparently 
successful issue of the expedition, the mothers of Bhootoom 
and Boodhu, disconsolate at the absence of their darlings, and 
apprehensive of their death, were so greatly affected that they 
decided to drown themselves in the neighbouring river. They 
went to its bank intending to put an end to their lives, when 
suddenly the objects of their love burst into view with the 
sacred name of " mother" on their lips. Nothing could sur- 
pass the ecstasy that the two ladies felt. They hugged their 
dear ones close to their bosoms, and blessing the gods for 
restoring their lost treasures to them, took them home, 
rejoicing. The happy night following this lucky day came to 
an end, and people were in the morning surprised to find that 
a crowded bazar was held near the hut of the two Ranis who 
had been doomed by their husband to ignoble servitude, that 
a beautiful orchard had sprung into existence, and that 
thousands of soldiers were stationed on guard. Princess 
Kalabutti, being informed of this, went to the Raja and said, 
" The period of my vow is over, but I am not going to give 
my hand to any of the five princes. Dispose of me as you 
like." The Raja said in reply, " Mother,^ I am not so great 

^ The Hindu method of addressing a girl or woman, to show great affection. 



PRINCESS KALABUTTI 149 

a dolt as not to understand all this. Is there none to fetch 
Nau and Chota Rani to the palace ? " This speech of the 
Raja added fuel to the fire of excitement burning in Kala- 
butti's bosom, and she hurried off at the head of her whole 
Court to the two Ranis, and formally escorted them into the 
royal mansion. The other Ranis and their sons, in shame 
and sorrow, sought their own chambers. Bhootoom and 
Boodhu came into the Durbar, and made their obeisance to 
their father. Their stars were at last in the ascendant. Next 
day, with great dclat, Boodhu was married to Kalabutti, and 
Bhootoom to a foreign princess, Herabati by name. But a 
sad visitation fell upon the heads of the five princes and their 
mothers. The doors of the rooms in which they had shut 
themselves up were blocked up with mud and thorns, and they 
were left to die of hunger. 

Time passed smoothly over the heads of the Raja and his 
people, when one night they were startled by the cries of 
Kalabutti and Herabati, who, waking out of their sleep, had 
respectively seen on their beds a monkey's and an owl's skin. 
The whole house resounded with lamentations at the probable 
death of Bhootoom and Boodhu, but every one was soon 
disabused of his error by the Raja's daughters-in-law who, 
peeping out of their windows, saw two princes of godlike 
mien on horseback, keeping watch at the palace gate. They 
recognized their husbands in the riders, understood what the 
mystery was, and at once burned the disguises their lords 
had assumed. Bhootoom and Boodhu were then formally 
acknowledged as Jubarajas, or heirs apparent to the crown. 
Their names were changed into Rupkumar and Budhkumar. 
The Raja, with his two reconciled Ranis, their sons and 
daughters-in-law, passed his days in great happiness till, 
stricken in years, he retired to the distant forest to seek his 
spiritual and eternal welfare, leaving the kingdom to his sons. 



II 

THE SEVEN BROTHERS WHO WERE 
TURNED INTO CHAMPA TREES 

THERE was once a king who had seven queens, the 
eldest of whom was a living example of pride and 
insolence, while the youngest was noted for her 
uncommonly kind and gentle nature. The latter 
was the idol of her husband, whose chief aim was to make 
her happy. He was not, however, unkind to his other wives. 
They obtained from him everything they desired, and passed 
their lives in royal grandeur. But there was one thing that 
cast a gloom over the palaces. The king was childless, and 
the thought that if he died without an heir all his dominions 
and wealth would pass into the hands of a stranger greatly 
troubled him and his people. 

In course of time, when all hope of an heir had been 
abandoned, the youngest queen showed signs that she would 
soon become a mother, and the king's joy was so great that 
he distributed rich presents to all who approached him. His 
attachment to the fortunate queen, and his impatience to know 
the fact of her delivery as soon as possible, became so great 
that he tied her wrist to his by a long chain, for the double 
purpose of always having her movements within his 
knowledge, and of being apprised without the least delay 
of the happy event, no matter what the distance between him 
and her might be. 

When the time drew near, the youngest queen withdrew 
to her apartments accompanied by the elder queens, who 
voluntarily offered to attend her. Seven sons, exquisitely 



THE SEVEN BROTHERS 151 

handsome, and a daughter, the incarnation of the moon on 
earth, were born ; and their mother expressed her wish to see 
them, saying, " O sisters, kindly let me feast my eyes with 
the sight of the babes to whom I have given birth." To this 
the other queens, with scornful gestures, replied, " Wretch, 
we admire your impudence ; you want to see the fruit of your 
labour. See, you have brought forth young mice and frogs." 
Hearing this the youngest queen fainted away, and taking 
advantage of this, her rivals put her eight children into as 
many earthen pots, and buried them under the heap of ashes 
thrown away from the kitchen. They then shook the chain 
that had been intended by the king to signal the birth of his 
child, and in he rushed with a countenance beaming with 
unspeakable joy. But what was his disappointment to learn 
from the elder queens that the wife of whom he had made 
so much had given birth only to mice and frogs. He was 
beside himself with rage, and had the unhappy mother turned 
out of the palace. She was reduced to the greatest possible 
distress, and maintained herself by working as a ghootah- 
kiivani (a woman who collects cow-dung cakes for fuel), while 
her rivals passed their time in gay festivity. 

But a deep calamity seemed to have befallen the whole 
kingdom. The king always looked morose and grief-stricken, 
and his subjects heart-broken. A dark cloud enveloped the 
palace. Birds forgot to sing and flowers to bloom. The 
gardener, one morning, came to the king and said that 
there were no flowers in the garden to be offered by his royal 
master to the gods in his daily worship ; but that there were 
eight trees, seven Champa and one Parul, bearing each a 
single flower, and growing on a heap of ashes near the 
kitchen. The king ordered the flowers to be fetched, and 
the gardener went on his errand. But as soon as he 
approached the trees, the parul (an Indian flower of red 
colour) said, " Ho, Champas, my seven brothers, are you 
awake?" "Yes, we are," came the answer; "what do you 
want of us ? " " The king's gardener is here," replied the 



152 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

Parul ; " shall he have flowers for his master's devotion ? " 
" No," said the Champas, " not before the king comes to us." 
Saying this, they climbed higher up their trees out of reach. 
The gardener was struck dumb with surprise, and reported 
the matter to the king, who instantly, with his courtiers, went 
to the spot, and was about to pluck the flowers, when the 
Parul called to her brothers in the same way as before, and 
asked if they would place themselves at the disposal of the 
king. The Champas answered in the negative, and said, 
" Let the eldest queen come, and then we will see what can 
be done." After this, they got a little higher up their trees. 
The eldest queen came, and the former scene was re-enacted, 
ending in a summons to the other five queens in succession ; 
and by the time the last of them had arrived the flowers were 
seen in the sky, like so many stars. Then with a loud voice 
they cried, " Let the discarded queen, the one who lives by 
making and selling cow-dung cakes, come to us, and we will 
place ourselves at her disposal." On this a grand palanquin, 
fit only for kings and queens, was sent to her hut, and she 
was carried to the appointed place. With her whole person 
smeared with cow-dung, of which she had been making cakes, 
she reached the trees, and anon the Champas got down from 
the skies to where the Parul was, and out of the eight flowers 
sprang seven prince-like boys and a girl of uncommon 
beauty. They fell upon their knees before the discarded 
queen, calling her by the sweet name of mother, and told the 
king their sad story. 

Every one was struck speechless. Tears flowed in torrents 
from the eyes of the king, and the other queens trembled with 
fear. They were at once buried alive, standing, with thorns 
placed below their feet and above their heads. 

The king then entered the palace with his now honoured 
queen and her children, and from that time bliss and peace 
pervaded the whole kingdom. 



Ill 

SHEET AND BASANTA 

THERE was once a king with two wives, one Suo, or 
the beloved ; and the other Dtio, or the despised. 
The former was very wicked, and heaped the 
greatest indignities on her rival. The elder queen 
was childless, while the younger had presented her husband 
with two sons, Sheet (Winter) and Basanta (Spring) by 
name. Though princes and heirs to the throne, the youths 
had to pass their days in great wretchedness on account of 
the secret ill-treatment they received from their stepmother. 

One day the two queens went to bathe in the river flowing 
by the palace, and the elder queen said to the younger, " Oh, 
how dirty you are ; come, let me wash your hair and put some 
oil on it." The object of this pretended friendship gladly 
submitted to the process ; whereupon her rival adroitly put 
something on her head, by the magical virtue of which she 
was transformed into a parrot, and flew away. The elder 
queen came home and spread the rumour that the Duo queen 
had been drowned. The king believed it and was very sorry, 
the more so for the fact that his sons, whom he greatly loved, 
were left motherless. 

The gilded parrot, into which the younger queen had been 
transformed, flew into another kingdom, and the daughter of 
the king of the place happened to see the bird, and asked 
her father to let her have it. Her request was complied 
with, and the parrot was brought into the palace in a cage 
of gold. 



154 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

In the years that followed the elder queen gave birth to 
three sons, as thin as reeds. This increased the spite of their 
mother against their half-brothers, who were of a sturdy and 
robust constitution ; and she continued to persecute them in 
every possible way. They were served with scanty meals of the 
poorest kind, while the Suo queen's sons fared sumptuously. 

But their troubles did not end here. Their stepmother 
was determined to ruin them. She had recourse to charms 
to kill them, but these proved ineffectual. At length, one 
morning after they had come home from the Pathsala (school), 
she raised a great uproar, tore her hair, and in frantic rage 
called one of her maidservants and told her to report to the 
king that Sheet and Basanta had abused their stepmother in 
the filthiest language. The maidservant did as ordered, and 
the king entered his wife's room trembling with emotion, and 
asked her what the matter was. The queen said, " The sons 
of my rival have insulted and abused me. I must bathe in 
their blood." Uxoriousness was one of the weaknesses of 
the king, and without venturing to make a single protest he 
summoned the public executioner and ordered him to cut off 
the heads of Sheet and Basanta and bring their blood in a 
basin to the queen. The executioner bound their hands and 
legs and took them out, seemingly to be beheaded. Who can 
picture the torments which they suffered ? Tears rolled down 
their cheeks at the thought of death, and they called upon 
the gods for deliverance. Their prayers were heard, and the 
executioner was moved with compassion. He removed their 
bonds, took off their garments, dressed them in the bark of 
trees and said, "O princes! I am in a terrible dilemma. 
The king, my master, has ordered me to kill you ; and to 
save my head I should do his bidding, but my better feel- 
ings prompt me to do otherwise. When you were babes I 
took you upon my knees and fondled you ; now I cannot 
injure you, and I will not, no matter what may happen to me. 
Go away in this disguise, and no one will be able to recognize 
you." Saying this, he showed the way they should take ; and 



SHEET AND BASANTA 155 

to impose on his master, killed some dogs and jackals and 
took their blood to the queen, who, exulting in the success 
of her diabolical plans, prepared a sumptuous feast for her 
husband and her own sons. 

Sheet and Basanta set out on their journey, but being 
unaccustomed to long walks, were soon very much tired. 
Basanta felt a great thirst and asked his brother if any water 
could be had. The latter said that he saw no chance of 
finding any spring, tank or river from which they might 
slake their thirst, but that he would go and seek one out. 
Saying this, he left his brother and went away. After some 
time he discovered a tank, and having no vessel with him 
was taxing his brains as to how he should take a little of the 
water for his brother, when suddenly a white royal elephant, 
with a throne on its back, approached him, and guided by 
certain signs of royalty on his forehead, took him up with its 
trunk, placed him on the throne, and hastened away through 
the jungles.^ Sheet was very much troubled at heart at the 
threatened separation from his brother, and wept ; but the 
elephant gave no heed to it. It hurried off at a great pace, 
and stopped only when it reached the palace whence it had 
come on its grand mission. As it set down the new king, the 
people received him with joyous shouts. With the crown on 
his head and the queens and the ministers with him. Sheet 
soon forgot his brother. 

Basanta, having waited some time for Sheet, became 
anxious for his safety ; and in the anguish of his heart 
searched for him far and near, till quite exhausted he laid 
himself down, filled with painful forebodings. His hunger 
and thirst increased until at last sleep, the only friend of the 

^ We read in Indian fables, that when a king died heirless and there was found 
nobody in the kingdom worthy to succeed him, the white elephant which had carried 
him, when alive, on its back, was sent abroad to select a substitute for him. The beast 
succeeding by its wonderful sagacity in finding out one fitted for the honour, at once 
took him on its back, and in triumph carried him into the country deprived of its ruler ; 
and the people there, gladly availing themselves of its choice, made obeisance to their 
new king. 



156 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

helpless and the distressed, sealed his eyes and brought him 
oblivion. Night came, and passed away, and at dawn a 
hermit happened to come to the spot, and saw him. The 
sage could perceive by certain signs that the youth lying 
prostrate before him was a prince, so taking him up in his 
arms he carried him away to his retreat. 

Basanta passed his days in the hermit's abode in as much 
peace and happiness as circumstances permitted. He fed on 
fruits, bathed in fresh water, and served his protector in the 
best way he could. In the evening he sat up to a late hour, 
drinking in the spiritual instructions that dropped from the 
hermit's lips. 

Leaving him here, we must follow the fortunes of his 
father and stepmother. As soon as their conduct to the Duo 
queen's sons became widely known, they became very 
unpopular. The subjects hated their king, and invited a 
stranger to dispossess him of his throne. Bereft of his 
kingdom and estates, he sought refuge in the forests, leaving 
the Suo queen with her three sons to beg from door to door. 
But her troubles did not end here. One day, while wandering 
about as a mendicant, she came near the seashore, and the 
waves rushing towards the land carried away her sons at 
one swoop to a watery grave. She rent the air with her 
lamentations, beating her breast and tearing her hair ; and 
at length, taking up a big stone, hit herself on the head so 
as to extinguish the flame of life. There was none to mourn 
her loss. 

We left the Duo queen changed by her rival into a parrot, 
and placed in a golden cage for the amusement of a young and 
beautiful princess. This princess, at the time which we have 
now reached in our story, was in the first stage of womanhood, 
and numerous suitors for her hand were invited by her 
father to try their luck at the Saymnbara ^ that was to be 

' Sayambara signifies a girl's selection of her husband. It was the custom with 
Indian kings to dispose of their daughters' hands in this way. He among them who 
had a marriageable daughter, invited numerous kings and princes, and on a certain 
previously appointed day made them sit in rows in an open place. The princess was 



SHEET AND BASANTA 157 

held. On the appointed day many suitors for her hand 
assembled in the hall of the palace and awaited the arrival of 
the princess in great agitation. But she did not appear. 
Decked in her bridal ornaments in the zenana, she was 
talking with her gilded parrot. " Tell me, dear parrot," she 
said laughingly as she finished her toilet, " is there anything 
else that I need to adorn my person ? " The parrot replied, 
" Put on golden anklets." The princess did so, and the 
anklets made a pleasant tinkling sound. She again asked 
the parrot the same question, to which the bird answered that 
she must put on a crown made of the feathers of peacocks. 
The girl complied with this also, and asked the parrot once 
more if everything was complete. The parrot said, " No, you 
must wear round your neck a garland of pearls that are to be 
found in the heads of elephants. They are called Gajainutty 
(elephant-pearls) and they will rhyme well with your name, 
Rupamoti (the pearl of beauty)." At this the princess said 
that as there were no such pearls in her father's treasury, and 
as she could not marry without them, the Sayambara could 
not take place. " I will wed him," she said, " who will bring 
me these pearls. But if any of the kings and princes here 
present presume to make the attempt, and fail, he will have 
to remain as my slave for life." The message reached the 
guests, and they went away in search of Gajamiitty. 
Reaching the seashore, reputed to be the haunt of elephants 
with pearls in their heads, they found herds of elephants 
there, but they were not the ones they sought. The beasts 
were wild in the extreme, and rushing upon their disturbers 
rent some of them with their tusks, treading others under 
their feet. The few that survived the onset returned foiled to 
Rupamoti, and according to the original contract, remained to 
serve her as slaves. 

Dropping the curtain on this scene, we pass again to 

then brought in to choose a husband from among the guests. And all that she had 
to do to show her selection was to place a garland of flowers round the neck of the 
chosen one, who was thereupon accepted as her betrothed. 



158 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

Sheet, whom we left reigning in his strangely acquired 
kingdom. Hearing the particulars of the above Sayambara, 
he was fired with rage at the presumption of a woman to 
enslave kings and princes for having failed in an impossible 
task ; and to make an example of her, he invaded her father's 
kingdom and carried her away captive. 

Basanta, meanwhile, lived in the hermitage, ignorant of 
these events. His life was that of a contented recluse ; his 
companions being the hermit and a pair of parrots, which the 
latter had tamed. No care vexed him till one night when he 
overheard the male parrot talking thus to his mate : — " A 
princess, Rupamoti by name, is in want of a lover. But she 
has vowed to give her hand to none but to him who shall bring 
her Gajamutty, the pearls that grow in the heads of elephants." 
The female parrot asked where they could be found, and her 
mate said in reply, " There is in a certain place a mountain, 
with its summit perpetually covered with snow ; and there is 
the sea of cream, in so much repute among men, washing its 
base. The unrivalled beams of Gajamutty fall upon the 
cream, and the aspirant for the girl's favour must make 
himself master of these pearls." Basanta, fired by curiosity 
and a passion for Rupamoti, whom he had never seen and 
of whom he had just now heard for the first time, went to the 
parrots, and said that he would get the pearls. The birds 
lauded his courage, and instructed him to undertake the 
expedition dressed in the princely robes to be found at the 
top of the Shimul ^ tree standing near, and with the hermit's 
sacred trident in his hand. He got the robes down from the 
tree, and the trident from his spiritual teacher, and set out in 
search of the snow-clad mountain. Great were the obstacles 
that he met by the way, and the impediments that he had to 
surmount in reaching his destination, which he finally did in 
twelve years and thirteen days. His robe and the trident had 
a magical power which enabled him to reach the top of the 
mountain. From the summit he looked out over the sea of 

' A big thorny tree, with very red but scentless flowers. 



SHEET AND BASANTA 159 

cream, and among the lotuses of gold floating on its surface 
he found a milk-white elephant, out of the head of which 
there peeped a string of pearls, bright like diamonds. He 
jumped up on to the elephant's back, greedily seized the pearls, 
and put them in the pocket of his robe. But what was his 
wonder to find the sea dried up and the lotuses gone, except 
one of gold into which the elephant had been transformed, 
and which said to him, "Take me and the pearls to Rupamoti 
and she will then pass her life happily with her husband." 
Having finished his work, Basanta was about to retrace his 
steps when he heard voices saying, "O brother, take us 
with you." The voices came from under the sands on the 
seashore, and digging under these, he found three fishes of 
gold. He took them up and went on, a dazzling light 
enveloping him. At the end of his long journey homewards 
he found out the kingdom of Rupamoti's father, and 
inquiring after her, was told that she was a prisoner in the 
palace of the great king, Sheet. He went there, and sending 
the king the three gold fishes as presents, asked that Rupamoti 
might be set at liberty. But neither the presents nor the 
request reached the king, for some days previously, having 
suddenly recalled to his memory the picture of his brother 
and the forlorn condition in which he had left him, he had 
been so grieved that he had shut himself up for days and 
nights within his private apartments, denying himself every 
nourishment and the company of those he loved. Basanta 
was informed of this, and he waited in the palace, expecting 
to see the king when he should be restored to his usual state 
of mind. On the eighth day after Basanta's arrival the king 
recovered from the first shock of his grief, and in the course 
of the preparations that were being made for a sumptuous 
repast for him, the three fishes which, though of gold, were 
eatable, were about to be cut in pieces. But they cried out 
saying, " Do not kill us, we are the king's brothers." The 
maidservant who had charge of the fishes ran up to her 
master and reported to him what had happened. He ordered 



i6o BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

them as well as the person who had presented them to be 
brought before him. But he was too excited to wait for their 
arrival. And he forthwith hurried out in search of him. 
Mutual recognition followed, and the two brothers shed tears 
of joy. The elder apologized to the younger for having 
neglected him ; the younger forgave him and asked him to 
drive the past out of his mind. They were thus employed 
when the three gold fishes, being suddenly transformed into 
as many princes, rushed in, bowed down to them and 
introduced themselves as the sons of the Suo queen, 
who had been the cause of their troubles. Sheet and 
Basanta embraced them, and asked after the welfare of 
their parents. The sad story was soon told, and the five 
brothers together entered the inner apartments of the 
palace. 

In the meantime the golden parrot that had accompanied 
Rupamoti beckoned to her and said, " The son of an unhappy 
mother, after crossing seven seas, has brought Gajamutty for 
you." The princess was surprised to hear this, but a servant 
ran in and confirmed the news that King Sheet's brother had 
actually brought the pearls. Rupamoti was delighted, and to 
reward the parrot for the information it had been the first 
to give, had preparations made to give it a bath in milk and 
rosewater. With her own hands she poured the mixture on 
the bird's head, and, the charm being washed away, it was 
changed into a lady of ravishing beauty, who was Sheet 
and Basanta's mother. She narrated her sad history to the 
princess, and told her that it was her younger son who had 
brought the pearls. 

Information of this wonderful metamorphosis was given 
to the five brothers, who hastened to do homage to the once 
unfortunate queen. Rupamoti met them there, and offered 
her hand to Basanta, who gladly accepted it. The nuptials 
were celebrated in the fittest style, and men were sent to find 
out Sheet and Basanta's father, and bring him to them. The 
search was successful, and the dethroned king came to his 



SHEET AND BASANTA i6i 

sons and embraced them. With Sheet's help he got back 
his kingdom, which he united with his son's ; and the 
royal family, consisting of the old king, the queen, their 
sons and daughters-in-law, passed their days in unalloyed 
happiness. 



M 



IV 
KIRUNMALA, OR THE WREATH OF LIGHT 

THERE was once a certain king who, being anxious 
to learn how his subjects fared, used to disguise 
himself and go amongst them by night. On one 
occasion he reached a cottage, and, from outside, 
overheard the conversation going on within. He recog- 
nized three distinct voices, and gathered that they belonged 
to three young girls who were discussing the subject of 
matrimony ._ " What a splendid thing it would be," said one 
of them, " if I could get married to the feeder of the king's 
horses. I should then daily feast on fried grain." Another 
preferred the king's cook, for the reason that if she married 
him she would be sure of being served with the best dishes 
in the palace. The third girl, after much hesitation, said that 
if fortune favoured her she would marry the king himself. 

Next day the king sent palanquins to fetch into the palace 
the three girls, who were sisters. He asked them what they 
had been talking of the night before, and on their hesitating 
to answer, said that he had overheard their conversation, 
and that their desires should be fulfilled. After this, on an 
auspicious day, the sisters were married according to their 
choice. 

After some time the youngest sister, who had become 
queen, was about to become a mother, and a room was 
furnished with great splendour for her confinement. The 
time of her delivery drawing near, she expressed a wish to be 
nursed, not by strangers, but by her sisters. They were at 
once sent for and told what was required of them, and they 
consequently remained in the palace with the queen. But, 



KIRUNMALA 163 

unfortunately, they were not happy. Envy at the splendour 
by which their sister was surrounded gnawed at their hearts, 
and they watched for an opportunity to injure her. That 
opportunity soon came when the queen, knowing that her 
hour drew near, resorted to the room that had been prepared 
for her and gave birth to a son ; and the cruel way in which 
they used it, was to put the child into a covered earthen pot, 
throw it into an adjoining river, and substitute a new-born 
cur in its place, while the mother lay almost insensible through 
weakness. When the king came to inquire whether his wife 
had brought forth a son or a daughter, they showed him the 
cur as his issue. 

After this, in two successive years, the queen brought 
forth two children, a son and a daughter ; and her sisters who, 
as before, attended on her, disposed of them in the same way 
as the first child, substituting for them a kitten and a doll 
of wood. The alleged fruit of the queen's labour, in each case, 
was made known to the king, who thereupon thought her to 
be an evil woman whose very touch was contaminating, and 
he banished her from the kingdom sitting astride a donkey 
with her face towards the tail, and with ghoul, a mixture of 
water and curd, poured over her head.^ 

In the meantime the earthen pots containing the king's 
children had floated to the bank of the river into which they 
had been cast, and attracted the attention of a Brahmin 
performing his devotions there. He took them home, and 
removing their coverings found therein two prince-like boys 
and a girl possessing the beauty of a goddess. Being himself 
childless, he brought these up as his own children. He had 
been in comfortable circumstances before, but his means 
increased very greatly on his bringing the children into his 
house. He named the two boys Arun (the sun) and Baruii 
(Neptune, or the water-god), and the girl Kininniala ; and 
with them he passed his days very happily, devoting his 
leisure hours to the instruction, both secular and religious, of 

^ This was the punishment iniicted on the worst and most degraded criminals. 



i64 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

Arun and Barun. His wife, too, taught Kirunmala all the 
domestic duties of a woman. Time passed smoothly with 
them for several years, till one day the Brahmin, finding 
himself growing decrepit and infirm, called his adopted sons 
and daughter to him and said, " My beloved children, I am 
on my way to another kingdom, the kingdom of Yania} 
Live virtuously and peacefully, and prosperity will be your 
reward." The Brahmin then passed through the portals of 
death, deeply mourned by Arun, Barun and Kirunmala. 

Let us now take a view of what was happening in the 
palace of their real father. After the queen had been banished 
he was visited by many calamities. So great were his 
troubles that he began to feel that he himself and his king- 
dom were under a curse. Life itself became wearisome, and 
to divert himself he led one day a hunting expedition into the 
forest. The day passed in the excitement of the chase ; but 
at night, the sky was covered with black rumbling clouds, and 
a great storm soon raged furiously, the windows of the 
heavens were opened, and the rain came down in torrents. 
The king was separated from his men and took shelter in the 
hollow of a tree. When the terrible night came to an end 
at last, the sky cleared, and the king, worn out with hunger 
and thirst, sought for some human habitation. After a time he 
succeeded in the search, and coming to the house occupied by 
Arun, Barun and Kirunmala he called in plaintive tones for 
water. They responded at once to his call, and attended to 
his wants. When sufficiently refreshed, he commenced con- 
versation with them, in the course of which they learnt that 
he was the king of their country ; and after a little while he left 
them, pouring blessings on their heads. 

The mention of the word " king " roused a series of thoughts 
in Kirunmala's mind. She asked her brothers what the 
insignia of a king were, and learning that a grand palace was 
one of these, she urged them to build one. They loved their 
sister too dearly not to comply with her wishes, and com- 

■" The Greek Pluto, or the god of the regions of death in the Hindu mythology. 



KIRUNMALA 165 

mencing the building, they completed it in thirteen months 
and six days. Its high tower reached almost to the skies. 
Built of white marble, and with silver doors and windows, 
and turrets of gold, it put even Bishwakarma ' to shame. A 
religious mendicant, or fakir, one day passing by the newly 
built mansion and learning whose it was, saw the owners, and 
spoke to them thus : — 

" You have built an unrivalled palace, it is true ; but there 
is something wanting to complete its beauty and grandeur. 
You must plant here a silver tree with flowers of gold, and a 
tree of diamonds with birds of gold perched on it. And above 
these trees there must be a canopy of a net made of pearls." 

The brothers and their sister, much surprised, wanted to 
know where these strange things were to be found, and the 
fakir said, " There is an enchanted mountain in the north, 
at the top of which you will tind them." 

On hearing this, Arun started in search of the mountain, 
leaving a sword with his brother and sister, and saying that 
if ever they found it rusty they might conclude that he was 
dead. Time passed, until at length one day Barun was 
startled to find the sword rusty. He communicated this to 
Kirunmala, and after the usual period of mourning he set out 
for the mountain, leaving a bow and an arrow with his sister, 
and telling her that if either of these suddenly broke it would 
be a certain indication of his death. 

After the most arduous journey imaginable, Barun reached 
the mountain, and hearing some one behind him call him by 
name, he faced round, and was immediately turned into a 
statue of marble. He then perceived that his brother had met 
with the same fate. 

Kirunmala was one day apprised of her younger brother's 
fate by the sudden breaking of the bow and arrow ; but instead 
of giving way to fruitless grief, she attired herself as a man, 
and started in quest of the enchanted mountain. Passing 

' The great and matchless architect in Hindu mythology, who made the palaces 
of the gods. 



i66 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

over many hills and through many jungles, and braving the 
inclemencies of the elements, she began her ascent of the 
mountain on the thirty-third day of her journey. On seeing 
her, demons and ghosts, tigers, bears, and elephants, fierce 
snakes and other venomous reptiles all closed round her and 
threatened to devour her. She was addressed from behind as 
" Rajputra," but she neither turned her head back nor replied. 
Treated with contempt by her, her enemies disappeared, and 
she reached the place where the tree of silver with flowers of 
gold, and the tree of diamonds with birds of gold perched on it, 
stood. She saAv also the net of pearls hanging over the trees. 
The birds of gold hailed her, and pointing out a clear spring 
told her to sprinkle some of its water on the two marble 
statues standing near by. She did as directed, and the statues 
were transformed into two human beings whom she instantly 
recognized as her brothers. They were naturally transported 
at this happy meeting. The brothers had been brought 
back to life, and the mountain had yielded its wonderful 
possessions. The brothers sped home with their sister, and 
their palace was soon adorned with Kirunmala's beautiful 
acquisitions. 

Passers-by were dumbfounded at the sight of that rich 
mansion, fit for the reception of the gods. The king, being 
informed of its existence, hastened to the spot, and saw that 
it stood on the site of the house that had belonged to the 
youths by whom he had been entertained on a previous 
occasion. On inquiry, he found that those very persons were 
the owners of the mansion. Delighted at the visit of so great 
a personage, they invited him to spend the day with them and 
partake of the humble dinner that they were able to provide. 
He accepted the invitation, and arrangements were made to 
entertain him to the best of their power. In the meantime, 
one of the birds of gold that Kirun had brought asked her to 
place it in the dining-hall near the king, and she complied 
with its request. 

At the hour appointed dinner was brought in, and plates 



KI RUN MALA 167 

groaning under viands of the richest and most delicious kind 
were placed before the king. But, when he was about to eat, 
some articles of food were turned into gold mohurs and the 
others into gems. Greatly surprised, he said, " Arun, Barun, 
and Kirunmala, what have I done to be the subject of such a 
hoax ? Is it possible for a man to eat gold mohurs and 
gems ? " The persons addressed also were surprised at what 
had happened, and unable to read the mystery they kept 
silent ; whereupon the bird from its cage said, " O king, you 
say it is impossible for a human being to eat gold mohurs and 
gems ; is it not equally impossible for a woman to give birth 
to a cur, a kitten, and a doll ? Here are Arun, Barun, and 
Kirunmala, your sons and daughter. If you care to receive 
your wronged and disgraced wife back, look for her in the hut 
across the neighbouring river." The king, in sincere repent- 
ance, rolled on the ground, cursing his stupidity in being 
imposed upon by his sisters-in-law ; and, when somewhat 
tranquillized, he embraced his children and begged them to 
go to their mother, whom he was ashamed to meet. Greatly 
moved, they hastened to the hut where she lived, and brought 
her home. And within as short a time as possible their 
father removed his capital to the place where their palace 
was, and the royal couple passed their days in peace and 
happiness with their sons and daughter, who were soon after- 
wards married. The queen's sisters were sentenced to be 
buried alive, with thorns above and under them. 



V 
BLUE LOTUS AND RED LOTUS 

A CERTAIN king had two wives, one of whom was a 
Rakkhashi^ disguised. Each of them had a son, 
that of the Rakkhashi being named Ajit, or the 
Unconquerable, and the other Kiishiun, or the 
Flower-like. The two boys were very fond of each other : they 
ate, learnt their lessons, and slept together. The Rakkhashi, 
however, was ever on the alert to feed on her rival and her 
son ; and one day she actually devoured the former. But she 
could not get the latter into her clutches, inasmuch as he was 
under the protection of his half-brother. At length she 
invited some of her fellow creatures into the kingdom, intend- 
ing to do by force what she had not been able to do by 
stratagem. One night one of her Rakkhashis burst into the 
room where the king, with his sons, was asleep, seized 
Kushum, and ate him up. The king was paralyzed with fear, 
and stood helpless while Ajit gave the giant a blow, and 
compelled him to flee from the room. Before doing so, 
however, he threw out of his mouth a ball of gold. 

The Rakkhashi was so frantic with rage that she herself 
attacked her son and ate him up. But as soon as she had 
done so, a ball of iron came out of her mouth and rolled on 
the ground. After this she went to the top of the palace, and 
calling a conclave of the Rakkhashis, dismissed them to their 
country. But the gold and iron balls gave her no peace. 

^ In Hindu mythology the Rakkhush and Rakkhashi were demons, male and 
female, gigantic and terrible in shape. They were said to be possessed of supernatural 
powers. 



BLUE LOTUS AND RED LOTUS 169 

She smelt danger in them, and one night she buried them 
under a ckimp of bamboos a little way off from the palace. 

One day a labourer came to the place and cut off two 
bamboos, and great was his surprise to find an egg in each of 
them, one red and the other blue. Fearing that they were the 
eggs of a snake, he hurriedly left the spot, and when he had 
gone, out of the blue egg came Kushum, and out of the red 
Ajit. The two brothers, leaving their father's kingdom 
behind, set out for the dominions of another king. His 
kingdom was infested by Khokkoshes,'' who devoured his 
subjects in hundreds. One night he dreamt that he was to 
be freed from the hands of the marauders by two princes, 
whom he should reward by giving to them his two daughters 
in marriage with the half of his kingdom. His dream was 
soon fulfilled. Kushum and Ajit, now named Neelkamal 
(blue lotus), and Lalkamal (red lotus), after the colours of the 
eggs out of which they had come, presented themselves before 
him, and on his telling them his dream, they at once 
volunteered to kill the Khokkoshes. Their plan was to await 
the giants in a room which they haunted at night, and accord- 
ingly they took their places there at nine o'clock. For a long 
time, however, there was no sign of them, and it was not until 
it struck twelve that they came to the door of the room, which 
was shut, and demanded to know who was inside. Neelkamal 
was awake at the moment, and Lalkamal asleep. The latter 
had, however, before retiring, told the former that if the 
Khokkoshes came during his vigil, he must not say that it 
was he alone that was watching, but that he had his brother 
awake with him. True to his promise Neelkamal, when 
challenged, said, " Force your way in, and you will find 
Lalkamal and Neelkamal with their swords ready to receive 
you." The name of Lalkamal produced terror in the Khok- 
koshes, because they knew that the blood of a Rakkhashi 
flowed in his veins, and they withdrew a few paces. But to 
verify what they had been told, the head Khokkosh said in a 

^ A tribe of monsters akin to the Rakkhushes, but more ferocious than they. 



170 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

nasal, though loud voice, "If Lalkamal be inside, let him 
show me the tip of his nose through the chink in the door." 
Neelkamal at once thrust out the point of a sharp knife to 
represent Lalkamal's nose, and the giants were terrified. 
" One having such a nose," they said, " is too dangerous a 
being to approach." Then they wanted to see the spittle 
Lalkamal threw, and on this Neelkamal cast at them the ghee 
that was burning in the lamp before him, which produced 
blisters on their bodies. Though the pain was very great the 
Khokkoshes did not runaway. They asked to have a sight 
of Lalkamal's tongue, and through the chink a sharp sword 
was thrust out. They laid hold of it, and all in a body 
commenced pulling at it. The fingers of their leader, how- 
ever, were so badly cut that he ran away. But coming back 
within a short time he went near the door of the room, and 
again asked who was inside. A drowsiness had come upon 
Neelkamal, and unconsciously he said that it was he alone 
that was watching. At the mention of his name, and the 
omission of his brother's, the monsters in a body rushed into 
the room, and were about to tear him to pieces, when 
Lalkamal awoke and despatched them with gigantic strokes 
of his sword. 

The next morning the people of the city were surprised to 
find a large heap of dead Khokkoshes. The king, hearing 
this, sent for the princes and gave them the promised rewards. 

The Rakkhashi queen, being informed of the massacre of 
the Khokkoshes, and having by magic ascertained the where- 
abouts of her son and stepson, sent emissaries to bring about 
their destruction. She sent two of her attendants, who also 
were Rakkhashis in disguise, with the false message that their 
father was dying of an incurable disease, and that his life 
could be saved only by rubbing his body with a Rakkhashi's 
brain. The brothers, anxious to prolong the life of their 
father, at once started for the land of the Rakkhashis. After a 
very long journey they one evening reached a banyan tree, and 
rested at its foot. Overhead they heard two birds, called 



BLUE LOTUS AND RED LOTUS 171 

Bangoma and Bangami, talking to each other in human 
language. 

Bangami said, " The blindness of our young ones is a 
great calamity ; but now is the time when their eyes should 
be opened. One of the men there, named Lalkamal, has the 
power of restoring sight to them by his mere touch. The 
men are on a very perilous journey, and we must help them as 
much as we can." At dawn Bangami flew down to the princes 
with her offspring, and Lalkamal touched them and they were 
healed. Then their mother said, " Oh, princes, we know you 
and your mission. Take these fried peas in your pockets, and 
mount on the backs of my young ones, who will carry you to 
your destination and back to your own country. The peas 
you will put into your mouth on the sly, when required by the 
giants whom you are going to visit to chew iron pellets as 
the proof of your being the sons of the Rakkhashi who passes 
as your father's queen." 

The princes were then borne away to the country of the 
Rakkhashis, a number of whom quickly flocked around 
them, crying out : — 

" Whoung, moung, khoung^ 
Monisshee gondo paung. 
Dhoreh, Dhoreh khaung." 

This, of course, was said at the sight of Neelkamal, whom 
they recognized as a man. Lalkamal, knowing that his 
brother was in danger, stepped forth and said, " Grandmother, 
we are your grandsons come to visit you." At this the old 
Rakkhashi whom they addressed said, " If that is so let me 
test you. Cut these iron pellets with your teeth, and then I 
shall acknowledge your claims to kinship." So saying, she 
put the pellets into the hands of the brothers, who dexterously 
substituting for them the fried peas they had brought, chewed 
them up. Thus not only were they freed from danger, but 

^ These are the words that Rakkhashis are supposed to use when a human prey 
is near them, meaning, " Hurrah, we scent human flesh, and we will eat it." 



172 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

were also made much of. Yet still the smell of human flesh 
bewildered the Rakkhashis. They passed it over, however, 
and the time went by in friendly entertainment. One day when 
their hosts had gone out in search of food, Lalkamal with his 
brother went to a well at the back of the house, dived under 
it, and brought up with him a casket containing two hornets, 
in one of which the lives of all the Rakkhashis were lodged. 
The other had in ft the life of the Rakkhashi who was 
Lalkamal's mother. When each of the brothers took out a 
hornet, the giants, who had gone out, felt themselves uneasy 
and hastened home ; and the Rakkhashis in the palace felt a 
very painful palpitation of their hearts. The legs of one of 
the hornets were torn off, and the Rakkhushes and Rakkhashis 
at the same time lost their limbs. Rolling on the ground, 
they approached the princes with mouths wide open to devour 
them ; but on the head of the hornet being removed, they fell 
down lifeless. Lalkamal cut off the head of his grandmother, 
rolled it in a napkin, and called on the young Bangomas to 
carry him and his brother away. After three months they 
reached their father's kingdom, and wanted to deliver the 
head they brought to the messengers from their father's 
palace. But these were not to be found, for they too had 
died at the same time as their relations and friends. The 
head therefore was sent through a sepoy in the entourage of 
the brothers. On seeing it, Lalkamal's mother was so excited 
and enraged that she cast off her disguise, assumed her 
gigantic form, and cried out : — ' 

" Thanda khang, gorom khang^ 
Mor moria haddi khang 
Dau, dau chitar agun 
Taholei booker jala jaung." 

Thereupon she hurried out to where Neelkamal and 

^ The four lines mean : — " I will eat all things, warm or cold : I will eat bones 
which will make a cracking sound inside my mouth. There is something like the fire 
of a fvmeral pyre burning within my bosom ; and if I can do what I wish, my heart-burn 
will cease." 



BLUE LOTUS AND RED LOTUS 173 

Lalkamal sat together, and the latter, being apprehensive of 
injury, took out the remaining hornet and killed it, and the 
Rakkhashi immediately fell down dead. 

On being freed from this pest Neelkamal and Lalkamal's 
father regained his health and energies, and learning where 
his sons were, sent for them. They came, and their own 
kingdom and that of their father-in-law, who had recently 
died, was annexed to their father's, and once more in their 
paternal house, they lived happily with their wives and 
children, much to the delight of the old king. 



VI 

DALIMKUMAR 

ONCE there was a king who was blessed with a queen 
of surpassing beauty and virtue, and a son named 
Dalimkumar who was gifted with all princely- 
qualities. The life of the queen was enclosed in 
a set of dice, and the fact was known by a RakkJiashi who 
lived in a palmyra tree close by. She was always on the 
alert to secure the dice and kill the queen. 

At length an opportunity came. The king had gone out 
one day on a hunting expedition, leaving the prince at a game 
of dice with his friends. The Rakkhashi came where the 
game was going on, in the disguise of a mendicant, and asked 
the prince to give her the dice. Her request was granted, and 
by an incantation which she uttered, the dice were carried to 
a kingdom beyond the realm of Yama^ where reigned her 
sister Pashabutty (one skilled at dice). The queen fell sense- 
less in her room ; and the Rakkhashi, entering it, killed her 
and assumed her form. Nobody became aware of the trick 
that had been played, and the Rakkhashi therefore was 
enabled successfully to impersonate her, after having put her 
corpse in an unfrequented room. 

In course of time the Rakkhashi gave birth to seven sons 
who bore no mark of their origin in their appearance, but 
were very handsome youths. Gradually they grew up into 
young men, and one day asked permission of their father to 
go out and see the world. He gave them the required permis- 
sion on condition that they should take their eldest brother, 

1 The Hindu god of death. 



DALIMKUMAR 175 

Dalimkumar, with them as their guardian and guide. On the 
auspicious day the eight brothers started on their journey on 
eight winged horses. The Rakkhashi, finding that Dalim- 
kumar was no longer in her power, opened a casket out of 
which a snake, thin as a thread and named SJmtashankha, 
made its appearance. She asked it where the life of her step- 
son was hid, and was shown a few pomegranate stones that 
contained it. She took the stones and shut them up in a 
cellar below the great staircase of the palace. She then gave 
the following instructions to the snake : — 

"O Shutashankha, ride on the air with this letter to my 
sister Pashabutty. I want her to have ready seven girls of 
transcendent beauty for my seven sons. On your way kill 
Dalimkumar, and thus remove him from my path." 

Having dismissed the snake on its errand, she uttered a 
Mantra (incantation), by the power of which the winged horses 
carrying her sons should reach Pashabutty 's kingdom. 

Shutashankha soon overtook the princes that same evening, 
and succeeded in stinging Dalimkumar in the eyes so that he 
instantly fell down from his horse stone-blind. His brothers, 
who were a few yards in advance, were ignorant of his fate, 
and so continued to ride on. The snake, however, was well 
punished by fate. Having reached a certain king's orchard, 
it managed to get into a fruit and hide itself, coiling within it 
to pass the night in safety. Early the next morning, before 
the snake awoke, the gardener gathered the fruit to be eaten 
by the king's daughter. She ate the fruit, and along with it 
• the snake, with the Rakkhashi's letter inside it. 

Dalimkumar's brothers that same morning, not finding 
him and quite ignorant of his mishap, thought that he had 
outstripped them ; and so they rode on expecting to overtake 
him. Having travelled a considerable distance, and not 
finding him, they wanted to make a careful search for 
him. But they could not lessen the speed of their horses, 
which having been charmed by the Rakkhashi, ran on till 
they reached Pashabutty 's house. The seven princes were 



176 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

well received ; and the best apartments were assigned to 
them. 

It had been a long-standing custom with Pashabutty to 
challenge every rich stranger who came to her to a game at 
dice, on condition that if he won, she and her seven sisters 
should surrender their charms to him ; but if he lost the game 
he must forfeit his life. The challenge was given to the new 
guests, of whose birth and near connection with her Pashabutty 
was quite ignorant ; for the letter sent by her sister had mis- 
carried. They accepted the challenge, lost the game, and with 
it their lives. Pashabutty and her seven sisters feasted upon 
them. 

The forest in which Dalimkumar had fallen from his horse 
was situated on the borders of a kingdom ruled by a young 
queen of extraordinary beauty, who seemed doomed by 
fate to widowhood. Unfettered by any law prohibiting the 
remarriage of widows in her kingdom, she had married 
several young men worthy of her, one after another, each one 
of whom had mysteriously died during the night following 
the day of marriage. The last of these had died on the very 
night that Dalim had been struck blind ; and so while the 
next morning he was lying helpless, the royal elephant in 
quest of a new husband for its queen took him up on its 
back and entered the palace with him, in the midst of great 
rejoicings. The prince was at once introduced to the queen, 
who with joy accepted him as her lord. After spending a 
part of the night in delightful conversation, the royal couple 
retired to rest. The night advanced, and the whole city was 
wrapped in silence. But Dalimkumar, who had been informed 
of the fate of his predecessors, sat up with lights near him. 
Suddenly he heard unusual sounds in the room. The walls 
began to shake and crack in every direction. The prince was 
struck with terror, but he was not unmanned. Though blind, 
he found his sword, and grasping it in his hand, he stood firm 
to meet the impending danger. In the meantime, something 
like a thread cut through the nostrils of the queen which 



DALIM KUMAR 177 

gradually assumed the form of a big snake, and went about the 
room hissing. Attracted by the sound, the king approached 
where it was with its hood erect, and carefully aimed such a 
blow that he at once severed its head from its body. This 
was the snake Shutashankha, Dalimkumar's inveterate enemy, 
and the queen, when a girl in her father's house, had given it 
admission into her body through the fruit which she had one 
day eaten there, and in which it had remained asleep. 

The snake being killed, Dalimkumar's sight was restored ; 
and when he showed himself alive the next morning the whole 
city was filled with shouts of joy. When the dead snake was 
being burnt, out came the Rakkhashi's letter, and on reading 
it, Dalim came to know who the wretched woman imperson- 
ating his mother was, and what had been the nature of the 
plot against him. He learnt, too, the whereabouts of his 
half-brothers ; and, after the honeymoon, he started for 
Pashabutty's kingdom. On reaching it he was challenged to 
a game at dice, under the usual conditions. He accepted the 
challenge, and while playing, detected that a small mouse 
crept out of the lap of his rival, got under the dice, and 
turned them in favour of its mistress. On some plausible 
pretext, he got up from the gaming table, promising to take 
up the game the next day. He kept his promise, and having 
secured a kitten, hid it under his dress. The mouse did 
not venture to creep out, and he won the game. Finding 
Pashabutty and her sisters at his mercy according to the 
conditions under which the game had been played, he cast a 
scornful look upon them, and held before them the letter 
which their sister, from his father's palace, had written to 
them, but which had by a lucky coincidence fallen into his 
hands. He recognized the dice to be the same as those he 
had once parted with. The sisters were greatly dismayed, 
and shrank into the forms of creeping worms. The charm 
hanging over their house was dispelled, and the seven princes 
and their horses started into view, as if disgorged by the earth. 
Dalim's horse, too, which had been turned into stone at the 

N 



lyS BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

time he was struck blind, suddenly appeared in its natural 
condition ; and the eight brothers set out on their way to 
their father's kingdom. The real queen, who had so long 
lain dead, had returned to consciousness on the recovery of 
the dice in which her life was held. She came out of the 
room in which she had been shut up, and the princes on their 
arrival bowed down at her feet and received her blessing. 
The old king's joy was boundless ; and having heard of 
Dalim's adventures, he sent for his daughter-in-law from her 
distant kingdom, asking her to remove her court to his, so 
that two kingdoms might merge into one. She agreed, and 
nothing was wanting to complete to the fullest measure the 
happiness of the royal family. 

The Rakkhashi was never more heard of. Her favourite 
haunt, the palmyra, was shortly afterwards found to have 
suddenly withered and died. 



VII 
A STICK OF GOLD AND A STICK OF SILVER 

IN a certain country, the king's son, the prime minister's 
son, the chief merchant's son and the highest police 
officer's son were very intimate friends. They passed 
most of their time together in merry conversation and 
sport, without any pursuits befitting their position. Their 
fathers were very much dissatisfied with them, and resolved 
to treat them in such a way that they should, in disgust, be 
forced to do something that might retrieve their position in 
their respective families. So their mothers were instructed 
by their husbands one day to put ashes on their dinner plates 
instead of food, that being the highest indignity that could be 
offered. The prime minister's wife, and the wives of the 
merchant and the police superintendent, did as they were 
bidden, but the queen, unable to be so cruel to her son, 
served him with all the usual delicacies, putting only a 
pinch-full of ashes on the plate, thereby partially obeying her 
husband. The prince noticed the ashes, and asked his mother 
to account for them. She made some excuse, which, how- 
ever, did not satisfy his curiosity. Having satisfied his 
hunger he went out and met his friends, whom he asked how 
they had fared that day ; and they, with tears in their eyes, 
told him that only ashes had been given them for food. He 
informed them of what his mother had done ; and keenly 
feeling the insult, the four young men left the kingdom to try 
their fortunes in the world without. 

After many days they at length reached the borders of an 
extensive forest. Here were four roads, leading in four 



i8o BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

different directions, and each of them chose a road for him- 
self, leaving marks whereby they might recognize the spot in 
future, agreeing to meet there again later. Each sped on his 
way and spent the whole day trying to find some human 
habitation. But their search was in vain, and in the evening 
they returned to the resting-place. The king's son said that 
from certain signs he suspected that a spell had been cast on 
them by Rakkhashis ; and that they must be on their guard 
during the night. He also said that as the pangs of hunger 
were almost unbearable they must in the meantime go and try 
to secure some fruit from the forest. But no fruit was to be 
found. They were not, however, altogether disappointed. A 
deer's head was discovered by one of them, and with this 
they hastened back to their resort, eager to make a meal of it. 
To dress it up the prince's friends went to fetch fuel, fire, and 
water, leaving him asleep. The police superintendent's son, 
returning with the fuel, touched the deer's head with his 
sword to cut it ; when lo ! a Rakkhashi leapt out of it, ate up 
him and his horse and again entered into the deer's head. 
The merchant's son and the son of the minister came back, 
one after the other, and met their friend's fate. The minister's 
son, when about to be devoured, called out in anguish, 
" Prince, save me," and on this the latter awoke, and rushed 
to meet the enemy with drawn sword. But his winged horse, 
now in the Rakkhashi's clutches, called to him, saying, " O 
prince, run away, or there is no chance for you." The rocks 
and the trees standing near by repeated the cry, and he ran 
blindly forward, pursued, however, by the giantess, till at 
last, quite exhausted and breathless, he reached a mango 
tree, which he thus addressed : — " O blessed tree, do thou 
who hast been here since the golden age give me protection." 
Suddenly it was cleft ; and the fugitive found refuge within it. 
The Rakkhashi prayed to the tree not to rob her of her prey, 
but the prayer was not heeded. She then transformed herself 
into a girl of great beauty, and remained seated at the foot of 
the tree, crying aloud as if some dire calamity had befallen 



A STICK OF GOLD, A STICK OF SILVER i8i 

her. The king of the place, who had been out on a hunting 
expedition, came to where she was ; and ravished with her 
charms, took her home, and married her. But she had not 
forgotten her grudge against the prince who had escaped her 
jaws ; and she devised a plan to destroy him. She pretended 
to be very ill, and laid herself down on a bed, under which 
she spread some dried flax plants. They crackled, and she 
said that the noise proceeded from her bones that were broken. 
Her husband was duped, and in great anxiety he called in the 
royal physician, whom she bribed to tell the king that the 
only remedy in this difficult and unheard-of case was that 
she might be made to inhale the smoke caused by burning the 
planks to be had from that particular mango tree at the foot 
of which she had been found. The king sent men to cut 
down the tree, and the prince, who was still within it, to save 
himself from impending peril asked it to change him into one 
of its fruit, and cast him into the adjacent tank, with instruc- 
tions to a boal^ fish in it to give him a place in its belly. His 
wishes were complied with. 

The planks were in due time burnt in the Rakkhashi's 
room, but finding no blood marks on them, she knew that 
the subject of her malice had escaped her, and, by the exercise 
of her superhuman powers, learnt that he was in the shape of 
a mango, safe inside a boal fish in the tank near the destroyed 
mango tree. She communicated this to the physician who 
was in her pay, and induced him to get the permission of the 
king to fetch the fish, alleging that the inhalation of the smoke 
of the planks had done her no good. The permission was 
asked and granted, and the fish brought into the palace, but 
no mango was found on cutting it open, for the prince had 
persuaded his protector, the boal, to transform him into a 
snail. The king then became quite hopeless of the recovery of 
his beloved wife. 

Meanwhile the prince, who had been changed into a snail, 

' The Boal is a fish, large in size, with a head very much resembling that of the 
shark. 



i82 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

was lying in the tank. A girl came to bathe in the tank, and 
touching the snail with her foot she brought it out of the 
water and broke it, and out of it the prince issued forth, 
enchanting her with his ravishing personal charms. The girl 
took him home, where he remained as her friend. 

The Rakkhashi quickly divined all this, and invented a 
fresh scheme to bring about his destruction. She told her 
husband that she might recover on touching certain things 
that were to be found in her father's kingdom, the things 
being Hasan Champa (Champa flowers), a particular spindle 
called Natan kati, and a raw melon twelve cubits long with 
its stone thirteen cubits in length. She also said that the 
only person who could fetch them was a prince, hiding himself 
in a house not far away. The king at once ordered his men 
to find out the prince, and bring him to the palace. They 
fulfilled their mission, and he was instantly bidden to start 
after the things, even though he gave out the antecedents of 
her who was then the queen. He began his journey only 
under compulsion. 

Days and months passed away, and at last the prince 
reached a splendid mansion. He entered, but there was no 
one to be seen. Finding a grand staircase in one of the apart- 
ments, he ascended it and entered the first room that he came 
to. Here he was surprised to find a girl of rare beauty fast 
asleep. He tried to rouse her, but in vain. At length he saw 
two sticks lying by her, one of gold and the other of silver. 
He had heard before of the wonderful properties of such things, 
and taking up the stick of gold he touched the damsel with it, 
and she awoke, and asked him if he were a god, for who but a 
god could come into a house infested by Rakkhashis. The 
prince told her who he was, and on what mission he had come, 
and expressed a desire to learn more of her. On this, the girl 
related her history, saying that she was the daughter of a king, 
to whom the house she lived in had belonged. A body of 
Rakkhushes and Rakkhashis had invaded his kingdom and 
devoured him with his queen and all his subjects, his horses 



A STICK OF GOLD, A STICK OF SILVER 183 

and his elephants. She was the only one spared. Some of 
the giants and giantesses were specially fond of her. But she 
was not allowed the least liberty. When they went out to 
secure food they left her as if dead by touching her with the 
silver stick, and on their return they revived her by the touch 
of the stick of gold. 

While she was thus talking they heard the Rakkhushes 
and Rakkhashis returning, and bawling out : — 

" Hung, maung, khaun ! " 
(We smell human flesh, and must eat it.) 

The princess in a panic asked the prince to put her to sleep 
with the help of the silver stick, and to hide himself in the 
next room, which was used for worship, under the heap of 
flowers and Bael leaves that he would find there. 

An old Rakkhashi came where the princess was lying, and 
rousing her with the gold stick, said — 

" Grandchild, how is it that I smell a human being here? " 

The princess replied : 

" It may be it is I whom you smell, satisfy yourself by 
eating me up." 

The Rakkhashi said, " Nonsense, thou, the apple of my 
eye, must not say so. Thou art my life ; see what good 
things I have brought thee." Saying this, she gave the girl 
an ample meal, and retired for the night with the others to the 
sleeping chambers. 

The next day dawned, and again they went out in a body, 
leaving the girl in a death-like sleep. The prince got out of 
his hiding place and roused her to consciousness. They then 
consulted togther as to the best means of escape from their 
terrible situation. The prince suggested that it would be best 
to worm out of the giantess, the girl's so-called grandmother, 
the secret of her existence and that of her people, since if that 
were known, it would be an easy task to get rid of them. 
The princess approved of the suggestion, and when in the 
night the Rakkhushes and Rakkhashis had sought their 



i84 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

couches, and the despicable being who called her "grand- 
daughter" was shampooing as usual, she contrived to put a 
few drops of oil into her eyes, so that her tears fell on the 
Rakkhashi's feet. 

At this she started, and asked the princess why she wept. 
The girl said, "O Grandmother, you all love me dearly; but 
if while you are away some accident cause your death, what 
will become of me ? " At this the giantess laughed and said, 
" Foolish girl, drive away these gloomy thoughts. None of 
us will die, save at the hands of him alone who will, in one 
breath, reach the white column of crystal under yonder tank, 
take out the large snake hid in it, and placing the animal on 
his breast, despatch it with one stroke of his sword. But for 
every drop of the snake's blood that may fall to the ground, 
there will start into existence seven thousand beings like us." 
The princess seemed very much delighted at what she heard, 
and said, " Tell me also, dear grandmother, in what the life 
of that one of you who is now, in human shape, the queen 
in one of the kingdoms far off (here she must have mentioned 
the name of the kingdom) is contained, and where can one 
get Hassan Champa, the spindle named Natan kati, and the 
raw melon, twelve cubits in length, with its stone longer by 
one cubit." The Rakkhashi replied, " The things you have 
named are in the room which your father occupied, and the 
life of my daughter, the queen you have mentioned, is hid 
in the parrot there." 

The next morning the princess, on being roused by the 
touch of the stick of gold, communicated to the prince the 
information she had obtained ; and when the latter was going 
through the feats required for the extermination of the giants 
and giantesses, they hastened with shrieks towards the 
mansion, the girl's self-constituted grandmother being the fore- 
most. She cried out, " Ainglo, mainglo, O grand-daughter, 
this is thy doing. I will devour thee before I die." But 
there was no time for her to take vengeance ; the snake was 
put to the sword without a single drop of its blood falling to 



A STICK OF GOLD, A STICK OF SILVER 185 

the ground, and the heads of the Rakkhushes and Rakkhashis 
fell at the same moment from off their bodies. The prince 
and the princess then left the place with the things that the 
former had come in search of, together with the parrot in 
which the life of the Rakkhashi in the palace was hid, and 
reached the kingdom whence the prince had been deputed. 
He saw the king, and told him that the things required for the 
queen's recovery had been obtained ; that a Durbar should be 
held, before which certain circumstances connected with them 
should be told in order to increase their power as remedies, 
and that they should then be handed over to the patient in 
the presence of all assembled. The Durbar was called, 
and the queen came. But what was her terror when she 
found the things and the parrot? It was clear to her that 
her whole race had been destroyed, and that her own life was 
hanging by a thread ; and, to make the most of her super- 
human powers, she assumed her natural form, and \\as about 
to devour them all, when the prince brought the parrot out 
of its cage and put his hand on its neck to twist it. The 
Rakkhashi, finding herself completely at his mercy, im- 
plored him to spare her life. Whereupon he demanded that 
his friends with their horses should be restored to him, and 
she forthwith ejected them from her mouth quite uninjured. 
No mercy, however, was shown her. The parrot was killed, 
and with it the giantess. 

The king, in gratitude to the prince for saving him and 
his subjects from the hands of the Rakkhashi, offered his 
deliverer the greater part of his treasures, but the offer was 
modestly refused. The four friends, without delay, returned 
to their own country, and were gladly received back by their 
parents and friends. The princess who had been rescued from 
the RakkJmshpnri (the house of the Rakkhushes) was with 
great ^clat married to the prince, and their wedded life was one 
of joy and happiness. 



VIII 
JACKAL, THE SCHOOLMASTER 

THERE was once a clever Sheal (jackal) whose father 
had erected a Deal (wall). The son was no less 
clever than his father, and to show his cleverness 
he opened a school in the forest in which he lived. 
Grasshoppers, centipedes, woolly-bears, cockroaches, white 
beetles, frogs, crabs, and spiders were his pupils. An alli- 
gator, living in a marsh close by, was seized with the desire 
of putting his offspring, seven in number, into the school ; so 
taking them one morning to the jackal, he informed him of 
his desire and left them with him as boarders, the master 
promising that it would take them only seven days to grow 
into giants of learning. The jackal's mouth watered at the 
prospect of devouring them, and he fed on one of them daily. 
Six days passed in this way, and the parent alligator, hoping 
that on the next day his young ones would return home great 
scholars, went to pay them a visit, instructing his spouse to 
prepare the most delicious dainties against their return. He 
reached the school and asked the master how his dear ones 
were, and what progress they had made. The jackal said, 
" Mr. Alligator, your lovely young ones are unusually intel- 
ligent. They have progressed very well, but I can't send 
them away to-morrow morning. There is yet something very 
valuable for them to learn, so please let them remain here till 
the morning of the day after." The stupid alligator could not 
say nay to this proposal, and returned home thanking the 
jackal. The seventh day dawned, and the cunning school- 
master, making his meal of the last young alligator, decamped. 



JACKAL, THE SCHOOLMASTER 187 

The next day the alligator came to the jackal's house and, 
finding it deserted, suspected the truth, and with sighs and 
tears thus soliloquized, "Wretch of a jackal, don't think you 
will be able to give me the slip. I know that you frequent 
the canal yonder, in search of crabs ; and I will lie in ambush 
there, and will teach you what it is to offend against an 
alligator." Saying this, he went off direct to the canal, and hid 
himself under the water. The jackal guessed his intentions, 
but could not desist from visiting the canal, which contained 
the best crabs to be had. He proceeded cautiously, however, 
for a few days. But in course of time his fears vanished ; 
and one day, seeing a number of well-grown crabs swimming 
in the water, he could not resist the temptation of jumping in. 
It was the moment for which the alligator had so long waited, 
and in the twinkling of an eye he caught the jackal by one of 
his legs and tried to drag him to the bank. There was a 
fierce struggle on both sides, and in the midst of it the jackal 
was drawn to a bed of reeds. He instantly broke one of them, 
and holding it forward under the water towards his assailant, 
said, " Mr. Alligator, I admire your sagacity. Instead of 
biting one of my legs you seized the stick I had in my hand. 
Now see here, both my legs are uninjured, and I put one of 
them forth, to convince you of your stupidity." The ruse 
succeeded, and the alligator, releasing the leg, seized the reed 
with his teeth, leaving his antagonist free to jump away, 
saying, " Good-bye, friend. I will again open a school. Send 
your future darlings there." 

Days passed until one morning the alligator, having 
ascertained the new whereabouts of his enemy, went there 
to satisfy his long-standing grudge. He knew that he could 
not get the jackal into his clutches except by a stratagem, so 
he feigned death, with his mouth wide open and stomach 
distended. The jackal, approaching near, suspected the trick, 
and to see how long the alligator would have patience to 
remain in that state, he from a little distance threw stones 
into its mouth. But still the alligator did not move. Then 



1 88 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

knowing that he was stupid enough to be easily taken in, the 
jackal said, " I see the alligator is not dead yet, for in that 
case his ears and tail would move." 

The trick had the desired effect, and the alligator com- 
menced moving his ears and tail ; and the jackal sped away 
heartily laughing at its folly. There were some goat-herds 
near by, and at the sight of the alligator they exclaimed, " Ho, 
here is the alligator that despoiled us of some of our calves," 
and they chased him with their sticks until he saved himself 
by taking refuge in an adjacent river. 

The jackal, in the meanwhile, resorted to a field of brinjals, 
and commenced eating them with great avidity. But fate 
soon deprived him of the treat. A thorn in the stem of a 
brinjal pierced him in the nose ; and so great was the pain 
and the bleeding, that he was compelled to go to a barber ^ to 
have the thorn taken out. He stopped at the outer door of 
the barber's house ; for it was not gentlemanly for him, 
though only a jackal, to enter the Zenana; and called aloud, 
" Mr. Barber, come out, I am in a fix, and have none but you 
to save me." The barber came out, and being told what the 
matter was, commenced the required operation ; but unfortu- 
nately, instead of taking out the thorn he cut the patient's 
nose, whereupon the jackal cried out in a rage, " Rogue of a 
barber, I came to you for relief, and you have cut my nose ; 
set it right, or I will punish you." Great was the poor 
barber's fear. He made a thousand apologies, but they were 
quite unheeded. At last, however, the jackal's anger being 
appeased a little, he let the offender off on receiving as a gift 
the iron instrument the barber used in paring nails. The 
cunning beast then went away, and happened to find a potter 
digging the ground for the mud required for his profession 
with his nails ; for in the district in which he lived there was 
no blacksmith to make spades or shovels. The jackal pre- 
tended great sympathy, and offered the iron instrument with 
him to the potter, who taking it for trial, accidentally broke 

' In times gone by, the barber was credited with great surgical skill. 



JACKAL, THE SCHOOLMASTER 189 

it. The animal, in a rage, grinned at the potter, and was 
about to bite him. The poor man fell on his knees and 
asked for pardon, which was granted to him, though sullenly. 
But he had to part with a harhi (an earthen pot in which 
Indians cook their food) as satisfaction. The jackal then 
proceeded on his way with his new acquisition, and met a 
bridal procession, attended with the splendour usual on such 
occasions. There were fireworks, and one of the crackers hit 
and broke the harhi. The jackal grinned, and howled, and 
as his teeth were supposed to carry poison, the men in the 
procession were very glad to get rid of him by letting him 
have the bride, the surrender of whose person he demanded 
in exchange for the earthen pot. He determined to marry 
her, and went to a drummer's to engage musicians to play at 
his wedding. A priest also was required, and leaving his 
intended bride in the house, he hastened in search of one. 
She sat and dozed by the drummer's wife, who was cutting 
vegetables with a Botie ^ before her. The girl, nodding in 
slumber, accidentally fell on it and was cut into two pieces ; 
and the drummer's wife, to hide the terrible mishap of which 
she was the innocent cause, removed the body to another 
room and hid it there. After a short time the jackal came 
back with the priest, but the girl was not to be found. The 
jackal was in a great rage, and peremptorily commanded the 
drummer's wife to produce her. The poor woman was beside 
herself with fear, and with clasped hands she confessed the 
truth, piteously praying for forgiveness. But tears and groan- 
ings went for nothing ; and she was told that she would be 
let off only on parting with one of her husband's drums. 
Gladly she availed herself of this condition, and the jackal 
left the house. With the drum, he climbed up a palm tree 
and began to beat it to the accompaniment of the following 
song :— 

' A sharp blade fixed to a thick piece of wood, two or three feet in length, with 
which the women of India cut fish and vegetables. 



I90 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

Ah, doom doo?>ia doom doom 

My nose was pierced by the thorn of a brinjal, doom dooma doom doom 

I got a Nanm ^ for the nose, doom dooma doom doom 

With the Nanm I got a Harki, doom dooma doom doom 

I got for the Harki a bride, doom dooma doom dodm 

And for the bride, O hurrah, I have this drum, doom dooma doom doom 

Dogoom dagoont, doog dooga doom 

Doom dooma doom doom. 

In a transport of delight he was thus singing and beating 
the drum when his foot slipped, and he fell into the canal 
flowing by. His old enemy the alligator, who had all this 
time been waiting for him, seized him by the throat and 
dived under the water. And thus his clever career came to 
its end. 

' The iron instrument used to pare nails. 



IX 

HUMILITY REWARDED AND PRIDE 
PUNISHED 

THERE was once a certain weaver with two wives, 
each of whom was blessed with a daughter. The 
names of the daughters were ShookJui and Dukhu. 
Shookhu with her mother, the elder wife, passed her 
time in idle amusements, while Dukhu and her mother did all 
the duties of the house. In course of time the weaver died, 
and his elder wife, appropriating to herself the property he 
left, Dukhu and her mother were obliged to shift for them- 
selves. For their livelihood they spun cotton thread, and 
made coarse cloths of it, selling them in the bazar. One 
day Dukhu's mother went out, leaving some cotton to dry in 
the sun under the care of her daughter. A gust of wind 
suddenly dispersed the cotton on all sides, and the poor girl 
distractedly ran after the pieces flying in the air. Even the 
wind took pity on her and said, " Dukhu, don't cry, come 
after me." The girl did as she was told and eventually 
reached the door of a cowshed and was asked by its inmate to 
give her some food. Cows are regarded by Hindus as incarna- 
tions of their chief goddess {Durga), and Dukhu gladly did the 
service asked of her. She then resumed her journey after the 
wind, and on her way was requested by a plantain tree to relieve 
it of its overgrown boughs and the creepers round it. Again 
she did as she was desired, but no sooner had she followed the 
wind a little further than a horse wanted her to give it some 
food. She attended to it, and after a little while reached a 



192 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

nicely whitewashed house which was very neat and clean 
inside, but situated in a very lonely place. There sat in the 
veranda of one of the rooms an old lady, all alone, who was 
making, in the twinkling of an eye, thousands and thousands 
of Safis} The wind introduced her to Dukhu, saying that 
the old lady was the moon's mother, with the world's cotton at 
her disposal. The girl was tempted to ask for some, but was 
told that she must first refresh herself a little before receiving 
the gift. She was directed to go and bathe in a river close by, 
but no sooner had she dipped her head in it and drawn it up 
again than she was turned into a surpassingly beautiful 
damsel, adorned with the richest gems and ornaments of gold. 
On her return to the house, dishes of the choicest food were 
placed before her, but she did not touch them. She ate only 
a handful of stale rice, lying neglected in one of the corners ot 
the room. The moon's mother then told her to go into an 
adjoining room where she would find an abundant stock of 
the best cotton in big closed chests, any one of which she 
might take. She did not take any of these, however, selecting 
a very small chest, lying apart, which she placed before her 
benefactress. The latter approved her choice and dismissed 
her, pouring blessings on her head. 

On her way homewards she met her old acquaintances the 
horse, the plantain tree, and the cow, and they respectively 
presented her with a swift-winged colt, a begemmed necklace 
in a basketful of gold mohurs, and a calf belonging to that 
species which, whenever required, gives milk as sweet as 
nectar. 

As soon as she reached home her mother, who had been 
restlessly awaiting her return, ran forward to embrace her. 
But what was the poor woman's surprise when she saw the 
treasures her daughter had brought. Dukhu told her be- 
wildered mother the story of her adventures, and the latter, 
with a heart overflowing with joy, ran to Shookhu and her 
mother, recounting the good fortune that had visited Dukhu, 

^ The broad-bordered piece of cloth worn by a Bengali woman. 



HUMILITY REWARDED, PRIDE PUNISHED 193 

and proposing to give them a portion of the wealth the girl 
had brought. At this the weaver's elder widow, with a long 
face and eyes inflamed with anger, said, " Far be it from us 
to take a share of what we fear may have been dishonestly 
acquired. I would strike my daughter in the face with the 
broomstick should she take a cowrie^ from the treasures 
you are so proud of. Avaunt ! If fortune befriend my 
girl, she may to-morrow gain all the wealth the world 
contains." 

The eventful day ended, and when Dukhu and her mother 
retired to their sleeping room at night the former opened 
the chest she had brought, and out of it came a prince-like 
youth, intended by fate to be her husband. 

The next day Shookhu, who had managed to find out from 
her half-sister all the circumstances under which she had left 
home and obtained the immense fortune, set out on the same 
quest. But when following the wind she contemptuously 
refused to serve the cow, the plantain tree, and the horse, who 
all asked her help. She was not respectful even to the 
moon's mother when led before her. Haughtily addressing 
the venerable old lady, she said, " Old woman, why dost thou 
keep me waiting? Come, give me all the things that Dukhu 
had from thee. Thou art mad, or thou would st not have 
given them to a wretch like her. Now attend to me, or I 
will break thy head and thy spinning-wheel." The old lady 
was both surprised and angry at this mode of address. She 
told the girl, however, to go to the neighbouring river and 
bathe. Three times she dipped herself in the river, after which 
she found her body full of warts, blotches, and sores. Frantic 
with rage and despair she returned to the old lady, and com- 
menced abusing her, to which the latter said, " Don't blame 
me, but yourself. Good Dukhu plunged herself into the water 
only twice, but you dived into it once in excess. Reap the 
consequence of your folly." Being then shown where the 

' Cowries are small shells once valued in the Indian market, and exchangeable with 
coins. Many years ago 80 cowries had the value of a pice. 

O 



194 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

food was, the girl greedily ate the richest dishes, and, having 
finished the meal, insolently demanded the delivery of a chest 
like the one Dukhu had obtained. Being told where it was to 
be found, she went there, and took up the largest chest within 
reach. And, forgetful even to bid farev/ell to her hostess, she 
ran homeward. Whoever met her on the way shunned her 
ugly appearance. Her other experiences were equally painful. 
The horse gave her a kick, the plantain tree threw several 
bunches of its fruit on her head, and the cow goaded her. 
After all these humiliations she reached home, panting for 
breath and half dead. 

Her mother, who was wistfully expecting her, fainted at 
the sight. The chest was, however, some consolation. The 
mother and daughter, who had heard of the sudden appear- 
ance of a very good-looking young man out of Dukhu's 
chest, expected the like for themselves. They carried it into 
Shookhu's bedroom, but the girl, feeling very drowsy, put off 
opening it till the next morning. But her eyes were destined 
not to see its light. At midnight she cried, " Mother, I 
feel a torturing pain in the ankles," But her mother 
replied, " Child, it is nothing. Your prospective husband 
is putting anklets round them. Have patience, and put 
them on." 

But Shookhu again cried out, " Mother, I feel a shiver- 
ing all over my body," and again the mother replied, 
" Child, it is nothing. You are only being decked with 
ornaments." 

After this Shookhu was deprived of the power of utterance, 
and after passing through unbearable tortures she gave up 
the ghost. Day dawned and her mother called at her door. 
But there was no response. Some two or three hours were 
allowed to pass, it being thought that the girl, worn out by 
her journey, was still asleep. But when it was nearly mid- 
day the door was burst open, and all that remained of 
Shookhu was a heap of bones, with a snake's cast-off skin 
beside them. The truth was evident. Shookhu had been 



HUMILITY REWARDED, PRIDE PUNISHED 195 

devoured by a snake. The mother, unable to bear this mis- 
fortune, killed herself; and thus ended two lives on account 
of their envy, selfishness, and pride ; while Dukhu and her 
mother, humble and virtuous, enjoyed the special gifts of God 
all through their lives. 



X 

A BRAHMIN AND HIS WIFE 



1 



"^HERE once lived a poor and illiterate Brahmin who 
had a termagant as his wife. One day he asked 
the lady to make cakes for him, whereupon she 
said, "What an impudent fellow you are. There 
is neither a grain of rice nor a drop of oil in the house. O 
son of a cake-eater, you want to eat cakes. Get out of the 
house." 

Thus grossly insulted the Brahmin left home, and 
wandered about disconsolately till at length he reached a 
hermitage, the owner of which, after learning his sad history, 
detained him and began giving him instruction. After some 
time the Brahmin with great difficulty mastered the Bengali 
alphabet, and puffed up with pride sought his own country 
without the leave or knowledge of the hermit. After travel- 
ling under the burning rays of the sun of the month of 
Bhaddur (the second half of August and the first half of 
September), which is the hottest time of the year, he at 
length, one night, reached home. Being curious to know 
what was going on inside he silently waited in the courtyard, 
whence he heard the hissing noise of the baking of cakes 
issuing from within. His mouth watered, and unable to wait 
any longer he cried out, " My dear wife, are you inside there? 
I am come, having acquired all the knowledge available in the 
world." The Brahmini came out, and said that she dis- 
believed him. To this he replied laughingly, " You certainly 
doubt the truth of what I say, or you would by this time have 



A BRAHMIN AND HIS WIFE 197 

laid a heap of your cakes before me." The wife was thunder- 
struck. She was at a loss to conjecture how her husband had 
come to know of the preparation of cakes, and asked him to 
enlighten her. The request was just the one he had expected, 
and with gravity he rejoined that he had read astrology and 
could tell everything that had happened in the wide world. 
His wife credited what she heard, and ran to the neighbours 
with the glad tidings. They visited him, and found him with 
heaps of books beside him. His fame quickly spread all 
through the country. 

Visitors came in crowds, some to show their palms, others 
to consult him about the thefts committed in their houses ; 
and the answers he gave always satisfied them. One day 
a Dhobi (washerman), Moti by name, who had lost his donkey, 
visited him with the object of learning what had become of 
it. The Brahmin was in a difficulty, but by no means at the 
end of his wits. He told the Dhobi to wait until his morning 
devotions were over ; and then, entering the inner apartment, 
went out by the back door to see if he could find the donkey 
grazing in one of the neighbouring fields. But he failed. 
He was not, however, altogether nonplussed, and coming to 
the Dhobi he said, " You won't find your donkey to-day. 
You must wait till to-morrow. My tutelary goddess, Chtmdi, 
is in a bad humour to-day, and will not favour me." Moti 
went away satisfied, but the Brahmin passed a very disturbed 
night in fear lest he should lose his credit and reputation. 
Towards dawn, however, he heard a noise in the courtyard, 
and suspecting that it was a thief he held up the light in his 
hand, when to his joy he beheld the lost donkey lying 
stretched at full length on the ground. With a trick he made 
the animal stand up, and tied it to a pole. The next morning 
the Dhobi came and took away his donkey, wondering with 
the whole neighbourhood at the superhuman powers of the 
Brahmin. 

Some time after this the king's daughter lost her diamond 
necklace, worth a million gold mohurs. Many astrologers 



198 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

were consulted, but to no purpose. At length the Brahmin 
was sent for. He trembled with fear, and cursed the day on 
which he had first set himself up as an astrologer. But it 
could not be helped. The king's summons must be obeyed ; 
and the Brahmin entered the court, seemingly with boldness, 
but internally as cowed down as a goat led to be sacrificed. 
He asked two days' time of the king, on the pretext of 
consulting the gods ; and the time being granted, he returned 
home, not knowing how to extricate himself from the diffi- 
culty. He touched no food, took no rest, and shutting 
himself up in his room, fell prostrate on the ground, calling 
thus upon his tutelary goddess, " O Mother yztggodamba 
(a name of Durga), save me from death, or at best imprison- 
ment. Is it thy intention that I shall be ruined? Juggo- 
damba, put me into the way of finding out the princess's lost 
necklace." The Brahmin's stars were in the ascendant, and 
though we cannot say whether the goddess Juggodamba 
listened to his prayers or not, there was one that did so, and 
that was her namesake, the wife of the king's gardener, who, 
passing by his house, overheard his utterances. She had 
purloined the necklace and hid it, and she thought that he, 
having detected this, was demanding of her the restitution of 
the ornaments. In great terror she ran into his house, 
clasped his legs, and with tears exclaimed, " Worshipful 
Brahmin, I adjure you in the name of the gods to spare me. 
Do not inform the king of my crime, and I will ever remain 
your slave." Greatly surprised at what he saw, the Brahmin 
asked her what she meant ; at which the woman said, 
" Father, you have discovered all. I will never commit theft 
again. Save me out of your pity. Prompted by avarice 
I stole the necklace, but I am ready to deliver it into your 
hands." The Brahmin now understood everything; and 
assuming a very kind tone, told the woman that she need not 
fear any injury at his hands if she would put the necklace 
into a harhi and deposit it in the tank close to the palace. 
Happy at escaping punishment she did not delay in carrying 



A BRAHMIN AND HIS WIFE 199 

out his instructions even for a moment. Hastening home 
she did as he had told her. 

Next day the Brahmin, elated with success, and with his 
forehead spotted with vermilion, saw the king; and after 
muttering some unintelligible jargon, told him that the neck- 
lace was lying in the tank near to the palace. The king then 
sent men to fetch it, but it could not be found, even after the 
minutest search. Who could now look at his wrathful frown 
without a tremor? The Brahmin was ordered to be put in 
chains. But he knew that the thief had not deceived him, 
and he stuck to his former assertion. At his importunity the 
tank was dragged, and an earthen pot, not a harhi, but a 
smaller one, was brought up, and the necklace was found 
inside it. The king and the Brahmin were transported with 
joy, and the former embraced the latter, appointing him chief 
scholar in his court. Presents and gifts of the most precious 
kind were made to him, and he passed his days in affluence. 
Daily he took his seat in the king's court. No one even 
of the greatest scholarship could venture to lift up his 
head in his presence, and the king and queen daily laid 
flowers at his feet. 



XI 

A MAN WHO WAS ONLY A FINGER AND A 
HALF IN STATURE 



I 



^ 1 "^HERE was once a certain wood-cutter, the barren- 
ness of whose wife was a constant source of distress 
to him, the more so as all the neighbours pointed 
at the couple as especially cursed by Heaven. The 
husband and wife made the richest presents and the sincerest 
vows to the goddess SJiosJiti, the giver of children ; and she 
one day appeared before the wood-cutter in the shape of an 
old lady, and gave him a cucumber, saying that his wife 
should eat it entire, without leaving the skin even, on the 
seventh day from that day. The wood-cutter gave it to his 
wife with these instructions, but she, in her impatience, ate it 
up the very next day, even forgetting Shoshti's instructions 
as to the skin. After the usual period of conception, a male 
child was born ; but the mother was well punished for her 
disobedience to the goddess. There was hardly anything 
natural about the child. It was born as a fully developed 
man, but was only a finger and a half tall, with a tuft of hair 
behind its head three fingers in length. He could talk and 
walk from his very birth ; and when not even an hour old he 
started in search of his father, who had gone out wood- 
cutting. 

He passed through many thoroughfares and through the 
forest, dispersing at one stroke of his feet the grasshoppers 
and other insects that waylaid him, till he reached a palace 
gate, where his father was toiling with great drops of per- 
spiration on the forehead. The boy asked him to go home, 




THE MAN WHO WAS ONLY A FINGER 
AND A HALF IN STATURE 



A FINGER AND A HALF IN STATURE 201 

but he said that having witnessed his child's birth and seen 
what had happened, he had left home in disgust, and sold 
himself to the king as a slave, and that therefore it was impos- 
sible for him to leave his work. At this, the son went to the 
king, and asked him to liberate his father. The king was 
annoyed at the diminutive figure before him, and said that 
the wood-cutter could be set free only on the payment of 
cowries (money) as his ransom. 

Mr. " One-finger-and-half," as his name was, ran out like 
a ball set in motion to procure the cowries, and in the course 
of his journey came to a canal which to him seemed impas- 
sable. He was thinking how to cross it, when he felt some- 
one pulling from behind at his tuft of hair. By one jerk he 
freed it from the stranger's grasp, and looking behind saw a 
frog, which, being interrogated, said that it had for its father 
the king of frogs, and that its name was Rung Soondar. At 
this the wood-cutter's son burst into a laugh of scorn, and 
was about to punish the young frog by dismembering it, 
when it said, " By certain mystical powers I know you to be 
a wood-cutter's son. Now it does not look well for you to 
be without an axe. You will get one from a blacksmith 
yonder, on paying a single cowrie." To which the young- 
man answered, "O brother, I am a child, where shall I get 
a cowrie? For want of cowries I could not liberate my 
father. I have nothing in the world, and shall ever remain 
obliged if you can lend me something." The frog, startled 
at the request, said he had only a single cowrie, and that one 
with a hole in it. The suggestion of possessing himself of an 
axe was pleasing to the dwarf, and thinking little of the 
impediment, he directed his steps towards the blacksmith's, 
whom he found to be a man of the stature of two fingers and 
a half, and with a beard longer by half a finger. He was 
making an axe and a sickle, each half a finger in length. 
The boy, without the required cowrie, did not at first know 
how to proceed. But he hit off a clever plan. He approached 
the smith with stealthy steps, and, unperceived, tied the tuft 



202 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

of hair on his own head to the beard of the latter. Then he 
jumped on the smith's back. The latter, taken by surprise, 
called on his gods, wondering if he were in the clutches of a 
ghost or hobgoblin. His aggressor, with sides bursting with 
laughter, got down, and introduced himself as his best friend. 
But soft words were useless. The smith in a rage asked if 
the cowrie, the usual fee for admission into the house, had 
been brought, and being answered in the negative, clutched 
his antagonist by the throat, and was on the point of throttling 
him, when one of the hairs of the latter, still tied to the beard 
of the former, was torn. The wood-cutter's son threw him- 
self on this account into a frenzy, and demanded of the smith 
the restoration of the hair, threatening him, in case of refusal, 
with a legal process. The smith, agitated with great terror, 
pleaded for mercy, which was granted on his consenting to 
give up the axe and the sickle when finished. A lasting 
friendship was then contracted between the parties, and the 
boy left the place. He came back to the young frog, and was 
asked by it to cut with his axe a young tamarind tree in the 
hollow of which its mate was shut up. He complied with the 
request ; but the frog inside, having lost, through long want 
of exercise, the use of its legs, could not leave the hollow. 
Master " One-finger-and-a-half," with admirable presence of 
mind, put his tuft of hair into the hole and drew the frog 
out. Rung Soondar out of gratitude presented him with the 
one cowrie it possessed, which it said would suffice to liberate 
his father ; and its mate gave him a few drops of its spittle, 
saying that with them he could heal the blindness of the 
daughter of the king whose slave his father was, and so gain 
her for his wife. He accordingly left the frogs, and journeyed 
towards the country where his father was. The cowrie the frog 
had given him multiplied on the way into as many cowries as 
would amount to a round sum of money, and he went to the 
king and insolently demanded of him the liberty of his father. 
The king, counting the cowries and satisfied with their value, 
promised to meet the demand, but not omitting to give the 



A FINGER AND A HALF IN STATURE 203 

impertinent upstart a few slaps on the cheek, and a violent 
pull at his tuft of hair. But he was not one to be so easily 
disposed of. He persisted in remaining in the king's presence, 
and boldly asked him if he had a blind daughter, and if he 
would marry her to him. The king replied that for certain 
reasons she could not be married, save in the presence of the 
corpses of seven thieves separated from his kingdom by 
thirteen rivers. The dwarf, leaving his father behind, started 
for the country of the thieves, and after many adventures, 
reached an ant-hill near it. He could proceed no further, and 
tired with the long journey, and worn out with hunger and 
thirst, he fell asleep by the ant-hill. Midnight came, and the 
thieves of whom he had come in search were out on a 
pilfering expedition. One of them stumbled upon him, and 
being awakened, he asked them who they were and where 
they were going. They told him that they were thieves, and 
that their present object was to break into the house of his 
old friend the blacksmith. Anxious for his friend's safety, 
and for the furtherance of his own ends, he suggested that 
they would find it more profitable to present themselves 
before the king living across the thirteen rivers flowing by 
their country, who intended to give one of them his daughter 
as wife with a fit dowry. They yielded to the deception, and 
full of anticipation at the prospect before them, they followed 
the dwarf as their leader. The thirteen rivers were crossed ; 
and the thieves when about to get down from the last ferry- 
boat stole some cowries lying hid in one corner of it. The 
ferry-man and the wood-cutter's son both saw the theft com- 
mitted, but winked at it for the time being, though in nods 
and low whispers they communicated to each other their 
desire for revenge later on. 

No sooner had the dwarf reached the palace with the 
thieves, than the ferry-man presented himself before the king 
and prosecuted them for the theft of his cowries. They were 
convicted of the offence, and executed. Whereupon master 
" One-finger-and-a-half" urged his claims to the hand of the 



204 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

blind princess. The king, the queen, and the princess her- 
self were loud in their lamentations at the demand of this 
deformed creature ; but the matter could not be helped. The 
king, according to the conditions he himself laid down, was 
bound to give away his daughter to that ugly little specimen 
of humanity. All he could do was to put off the wedding day. 
It was within a short time after this that the friends of 
the seven thieves, getting intelligence of their execution, in a 
swarm besieged the kingdom, and plundered not only the 
palace, but all the other houses, reducing the king to the 
direst poverty imaginable. The dwarf who had enticed their 
friends into the kingdom and had had them executed, was 
the object of their keenest search, but he hid himself in a 
dense patch of grass, and came out only when the coast was 
clear. He again urged his suit for the princess's hand, and 
was again put off till the extermination of the race of thieves 
had been accomplished. For the achievement of this object 
the dwarf rode away, mounted on a tom-cat, into their country. 
On the way he made friends with hornets, wasps, and bees, 
with whom he began an attack which lasted continually for 
three days, until the thieves, smarting under the poisonous 
stings of the insects, left the country for good, taking with 
them their wives and children. Triumphantly returning to 
the king, he asked him for his father's release and for the 
hand of the princess. The king could not say " no " any longer, 
and the dwarf was re-named Pin gal Kumar a. His father 
was brought into the palace on a decorated chariot with 
flowers, and he himself was rewarded with the princess's 
hand, whose sight he restored with the help of the frog's 
spittle. The wood-cutter's wife was brought into the palace, 
and lived there as happily as the day was long. Years passed 
over their heads, until at last the king retired into the forest 
to prepare himself for death, leaving his dominions to his 
worthy son-in-law. 



XII 

THE PETRIFIED MANSION 

ONCE upon a time there was a prince who set out on 
his travels into foreign countries, alone, without 
taking with him any valuables. His sword was his 
only companion. He crossed mountains, seas, and 
rivers, and at length came to a grand mansion. He entered 
it ; and great was his surprise to find petrified forms of men 
and animals in all the apartments through which he passed. 
Even the weapons in the armoury were not exceptions. 
There was in one of the halls a stone statue dressed in royal 
splendour, surrounded by other statues gorgeously equipped. 
The lonely house greatly frightened the prince, but just as he 
was on the point of quitting it he happened to notice an open 
door. Passing through it he reached the presence of a very 
beautiful damsel reposing on a khat (bed) of gold, and 
surrounded by lotuses of the same metal. She lay quite 
motionless and was apparently dead. There was not the 
softest breath perceptible in her. The prince was enamoured 
of her beauty and sat with his eyes fixed upon her. But one 
day he happened to notice a stick of gold near the girl's 
pillow. He took it up, and was turning it round and round 
for inspection, when it suddenly touched her forehead ; and 
instantly she started up, fully conscious. The whole house 
resounded with the clamour of human tongues, the clanking 
of arms, the songs of birds, and the sounds of domestic 
animals. It was full of life and joy. Heralds made pro- 
clamations, ministers speechified in the court-room, and the 
king engaged himself in the discharge of his royal duties. 



2o6 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

The prince was struck speechless with wonder ; and the 
princess was equally astonished. The servants entered the 
room, and finding a prince-like youth seated by their master's 
daughter, hastened to the king with the intelligence. He 
hurried to the spot, and seeing the prince, asked him who he 
was. The prince told him ; and the royal family, with all the 
other inmates of the palace, acclaimed him as their deliverer. 
They said that the touch of a silver stick had petrified them 
all, and that their revival was the result of his having touched 
the princess with the stick of gold. In recognition of the very 
great service he had rendered them, the prince was rewarded 
with the princess's hand ; and great were the rejoicings on the 
joyous occasion. 

Meanwhile in his own home his parents mourned for the 
prince as the years passed and he did not return. The queen 
had taken to her bed, and the king had become blind with 
weeping. They were disconsolate, and courted death as the 
only termination of their great grief The whole kingdom 
was overcast with sadness, which was, however, ultimately 
removed when one day the long-lost prince appeared with 
his bride. Joyous acclamations rent the air ; and the royal 
couple, being informed of the return of their dear son, 
hastened out to the gate and embraced him and the princess. 
At the touch of the stick of gold the king regained his sight, 
and the queen her health, and they lived for years in the 
enjoyment of great happiness. At length, leaving the throne 
to his son, the king with the queen retired to spend a secluded 
and godly life in the depths of the forest. 



XIII 
A TRUE FRIEND 

A CERTAIN prince once lived in very intimate friend- 
ship with a goat-herd. They were always together, 
and the prince promised his friend that on ascend- 
*■ ing the throne he would make him prime minister. 
In course of time the reigning king died, and was succeeded 
by his son, who in the intoxication of rank and power quite 
forgot his goat-herd friend. The latter, however, with the 
intention of calling on him, one day presented himself at the 
gate of the palace, but he was roughly driven away. The 
next morning it so befell that the king got up from bed with 
his whole body from top to toe pierced with needles, and was 
subject to intense suffering. He could not stand, sit, or lie 
down without filling the house with groans ; and the whole 
palace was rent with misery out of sympathy for him. The 
queen's affliction in particular was so great that she passed 
her days only in heart-rending sighs and sobs. 

One day, when she went to bathe in the river that flowed 
by the palace, she was met by a girl of unrivalled beauty, who 
petitioned to be kept as a slave and rewarded with the queen's 
diamond bracelets. The girl's request being granted, she 
followed her mistress. And when the latter, leaving her 
clothes on the bank, immersed her head in the water, the 
former, by some charm, assumed her shape, turning her into 
an ugly hag. They then returned to the palace, where the 
wicked girl passed as the queen. Her manners, however, 
were quite unlike those of the latter. She showed a very 
cross temper, and cast invectives on those who approached 



2o8 BENGAL FAIRY TALES 

her. The people, ignorant of the ruse practised on them, 
were at a loss to account for the changed behaviour of their 
queen, but they could do nothing except patiently submit to 
the cruelties inflicted on them. The former queen was not an 
exception. She could not even see her dear husband. The 
most humilating work was allotted to her ; and she passed 
her days and nights in weeping. 

But better days were in store for her. One day, when 
proceeding towards the river to wash some of her old clothes, 
for new ones were never allowed her, she saw a man sitting 
by the roadside with a heap of bundles of thread before him, 
and bawling out, " I shall have a good day of it if I can get 
a thousand needles ; the enjoyment of a prince if I have ten 
thousands ; I shall fly triumphantly in the air if I can procure 
a million." The poor queen, then only a despised servant, 
was glad at what she heard ; and promising to give the man 
innumerable needles if he would take them, led him to the 
palace, and managed to obtain for him comfortable quarters. 
Every one was told why he was there, and he was respectfully 
received. The next day he told the girl who had usurped the 
queen's place that it was the day of a certain festival, to be 
celebrated by the eating of cakes, and asked her to prepare 
the best ones. She knew that she was not a good hand at 
making cakes, and so took the assistance of the real queen. 
They made cakes together ; those prepared by the latter being 
the best of their kind, while those made by the former were 
of the coarser sort, fit to be eaten only by peasants. All were 
struck with this difference, but none dared venture any 
remarks. The stranger, however, addressed the false queen 
thus : " You, a mere slave, have installed yourself as queen ; 
but now you are caught. You are no other than the vulgar 
woman that was bought with a Konkitn (bracelet)." At this 
the woman, frantic with rage, had the public executioner 
brought before her, and ordered him to cut off the man's 
head, as well as that of the real queen, who had introduced 
him into the royal mansion. The executioner was preparing 



A TRUE FRIEND 209 

to do her bidding when the man, his intended victim, said, 
" O my bundles of thread, twist yourselves into a thick and 
strong bond, and with it tie up the executioner's hands." 
The bundles obeyed their master, and the executioner was 
rendered powerless. The stranger then commanded some 
lines of his thread to enter the nostrils of the pretended queen 
who had ordered him to be killed. They did so, and she fell 
to the ground senseless. But his work was not yet fully 
accomplished. He had to free the king from his torments ; 
and so, by a spell, he made each single thread in the bundles 
get into the eye of each needle that pierced the sufferer's body 
and draw it out. The exercise of magical power did not end 
there. The needles with the long thread in the eye of each 
sewed up the eyes, ears, and lips of the woman who had up 
to that moment masqueraded as the royal spouse. She fell to 
the ground and struggled in torture ; while the king, having 
his eyes opened, saw and recognized his old friend the goat- 
herd, asked his pardon for having neglected him, and 
appointed him his prime minister. After this the two friends 
always remained together, the goat-herd entertaining the king 
in the evenings with the charming music of the flute of gold 
which the former had given him as a token of affection in the 
old days of their friendship. The queen, on the return of her 
former beauty and prosperity, enjoyed a happy and peaceful 
life, admired and adored by her husband, while the wretched 
woman who had supplanted her died a miserable death. 



The Road to En=Dor 

By E. H. JONES, Lt., I.A.R.O. With 
Illustrations by C. W. HILL, Lt., R.A.F. 

Fourth Edition. 8/6 net. 

This book, besides telling an extraordinary story, will appeal to every one who 
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authenticated in every detail by fellow-officers and official documents. 

" Astounding ... of great value." — Times. 

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" It is easily the most surprising story of the escape of prisoners of war which 
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" The story of surely the most colossal ' fake ' of modern times." — Birming- 
ham Post. 

" The most amazing story of the via.x."—T>aily Graphic. 



Unconducted Wanderers 

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A Kut Prisoner 

By Lieut. H. C. W. BISHOP. Illus. 6/6 net. 

This book is the remarkable story of the first three British officers to escape from a Turkish 
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The Last Crusade, 1914=1918 

By DONALD MAXWELL, 

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With numerous Illustrations by the author in colour, and in black and white. 

Crown 4to. ^I : 5 : o net. 

" Adventures with a Sketch-Book " showed how well Mr. Maxwell can sketch and write. 
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interesting aspect of the war, is also a finished example of pictorial and literary art, 

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** A very beautiful and inspiring book." — Grapliic. 

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Poems in Captivity 

By JOHN STILL, 

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John Still was captured by the Turks in Gallipoli in 1915, and remained in captivity for over 
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